Is seafood healthy for you? What types of fish should you eat? And what are the best ways to eat seafood to avoid food poisoning?
These are commonly asked questions when it comes to making healthy food choices, as you’ve likely heard before that some types of seafood offer significant health benefits.
Fish is loaded with essential nutrients, including iodine, selenium, high-quality protein, and zinc. It also contains vitamins D and B12, both of which are necessary for bone and brain health, respectively. Most importantly though, fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids.
At the top of the list of the best healthy seafood are fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout. These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which your brain uses to build brain and nerve cells. This type of fat is essential for memory and learning, and it can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Cold-water fish are also an excellent source of lean protein and rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies show that these nutrients may even reduce the risk of heart disease and boost your mood.
That being said, choosing the best healthy seafood means navigating other environmental and health concerns. When eating these types of fish, it’s important to look for sustainably sourced and clean fish. Check out this Clean Eating Buyers Guide to Seafood for more information.
Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy diet and properly reading food labels? Check out our blog Looking Beyond the Label: 8 Healthy Food Myths.
One major health concern with eating fish is mercury. That being said, for most non-pregnant people, the benefits of fish outweigh the risks from the methylmercury found in different types of seafood.
An easy way to know whether the fish is high in mercury or not is to consider the size and age of the fish. Typically, the larger and older the fish is, the higher in mercury it will be. Metal accumulates over time, especially for larger fish that are toward the top of the food chain.
Some of the fish that have high mercury levels include:
So, how much is too much mercury? If you consume any of the above-mentioned high-mercury fish (even just once a month), it could be too much mercury.
High levels of mercury can cause symptoms of numbness in your fingers and toes, tingling, and vision problems; it can also impact infant brain development. Even low-level mercury exposure (when consumed consistently) can make you feel fatigued and impact your ability to concentrate. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your primary care doctor.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, you should consume at least 8 ounces of lower-mercury seafood a week.
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor first for appropriate guidelines for consuming seafood.
Raw or undercooked seafood is a popular food choice for many and is commonly found on menus across the country and the globe. However, these foods are not safe for everyone to consume.
One of the biggest risks of consuming raw or undercooked meat of any kind (especially seafood) is contracting a foodborne illness, as well as Salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus. Vibrio vulnificus (a rare disease you can contract when eating raw shellfish and oysters) is a bacterium that lives in warm seawater. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80,000 illnesses are caused by this disease each year.
While for most healthy adults who consume raw fish may only have a small health risk, for others, it can be severe. Foodborne illness symptoms include severe vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other symptoms.
It’s highly recommended to properly prepare fin fish until it reaches 145°F — or until the skin is opaque and separates with a fork; prepare shellfish until it is opaque; and prepare clams, oysters, and mussels until the shells open.
While properly cooked seafood offers a variety of health benefits, there are still those increased risks to consider. Be aware of food safety considerations, and if you are pregnant or a high-risk individual, it’s best to avoid fish or talk to your doctor first.
Not sure which DFW restaurants offer the best healthy seafood options? We’ve compiled a list of a few and what you should order. Get your free copy of the one-page guide below.