Whether you’re a health nut or not, it’s quite likely that you might have heard by now that eating fish on a regular basis can help you take your health to a whole new level. What makes this type of food healthy, and are there any risks involved with consuming fish regularly?
We’ve asked ourselves the same questions and have come up with some of the answers. While there are many publications that will tell you that eating any kind of fish is healthy all the time, it doesn’t all come down to that. Some are great for your brain and heart, but others might do you more harm than good.
While browsing through several sources, we couldn’t help noticing that most of the online articles you might come across either focus on the beneficial effects of consuming fish regularly and forget all about the risks, or concentrate on the latter without downright advising Internet users to stay away from fish. It’s not all black and white, and that’s what you should always keep in mind with regard to your diet.
We’ve put together 5 essential reasons to integrate fish into your daily diet and 3 risks of consuming some particular species. To find out more on the topic, just keep on reading.
Your brain could use some fish right now
Despite the fact that many vegetarians and vegans like steering clear of oil, salt, and various other food compounds that have been in the human diet for hundreds and even thousands of years, everything is not all that simple. Of course, some oils are healthier than others, and there’s no question as to whether the ones used for frying can ever help you get smarter or prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Generally, any oil that has been fried doesn’t do you much good.
However, there are some fish species that are packed with omega-3 acids which are known to contain both EPA and DHA. These two compounds can promote the health status of your cognitive functions, which is why consuming fish can support your brain health at any stage of your life.
Some fish contain more oil than others, which is the case with salmon, herring, and trout. Monounsaturated fatty acids can be found in a variety of plant-based foods, as well, such as sunflower, olive, and canola oil, as well as a broad variety of nuts. It goes without saying that all of these oils are healthy only if you add them to your salads and don’t use them to fry anything.
It promotes cardiac health
Here’s where things might get a bit tricky. To help you maintain a healthy heart, you need to eat fish at least twice a week, which might be a daunting task for people who either don’t like consuming this food regularly or who have no means of getting it other than buying it frozen or processed.
Whether you like the taste or not, the fact is that fish has been found to have a broad array of anti-inflammatory benefits. So, if you’re having trouble regulating your cholesterol levels, you probably need to get rid of that steak you’re planning to have for lunch tomorrow and replace it with some delicious salmon. Fish is lower in everything from LDL cholesterol to triglycerides, which is why you might be in for a really nice surprise the next time you get your tests from the doctor’s office.
Regularly eating fish will help you get glowing skin and shiny hair
The same omega-3 fats we were mentioning above have been linked with boosting collagen production. What this means for you is that, once you start eating fish a bit more regularly, you’ll have both shinier hair and glowing skin.
Something other that has to be noted in this respect is that these fats can help you protect your skin from harmful UV rays. So, in a way, they behave like sunscreen although we still suggest you apply some before getting out of the house, just to make sure you don’t end up suffering from a melanoma anytime soon.
It can ease the pains of rheumatoid arthritis
As mentioned above, some fish contain fatty acids that have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. It stands to reason that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if you want to make sure that your bones are in top health for the rest of your life, you somehow need to integrate some fish in your weekly diet.
In a worst case scenario, you might at least need to add some omega 3 and 6 supplements to your daily diet. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by tenderness and joint swelling, so if you want to keep having an active lifestyle even as you grow old, you need to make some changes in your habits. Make sure you don’t consider shrimp stir-fry and fried fish as healthy as steamed and grilled fish because they’re definitely not the same. These two popular dishes also have less omega 3 in them.
A fish-rich diet can lower the risk of depression
More than 15 million American adults suffer from depression. It would certainly be unjust to say that anxiety, depression, and other common mental illnesses can be cured with the help of any dietary changes. Primarily, they are caused by genetics, life events, brain chemistry imbalances, and a variety of personality-related factors.
Nonetheless, such conditions can at least be prevented by consuming fish regularly. If you are aware of a history of mental illness in your family, it would be a good idea to add fish-based dishes in the diet of your children so as to promote their brain health.
Some mental illnesses such as social anxiety disorders occur around the age of 13 when most kids start to get bullied at school. While the median age of onset for obsessive-compulsive disorder is 19, around a quarter of those 2.2 million Americans who have OCD start experiencing it as early as the age of 14. As such, it’s rather easy to see that starting early is the key to battling a mental illness even before it takes over one’s life.
Given that many of the babies of women who eat lower amounts of fish or omega 3-rich foods during their pregnancy have been found to suffer from delayed brain development, eating fish regularly can make all the difference when it comes to health.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fears of contaminants make many unnecessarily shy away from fish. In spite of the fact that it is true that some species such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies, as well as salmon and herring are rich in omega 3, some others might not be as good for you as they appear to be.
The most common contaminant in fish is mercury, and the irony is that while omega 3 and 6 have beneficial effects on brain health and its development, mercury does the exact opposite. It has been linked to nerve damage to such an extent that it can even disrupt brain development in fetuses. In fact, it can even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, which automatically invalidates all the benefits of consuming fish altogether.
Some other contaminants that can be found in fish are pesticide residues, dioxins, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls. Even if their effects aren’t particularly clear, it goes without saying that it wouldn’t hurt if consumers took the time to think twice before opting for some types of fish.
To make it easier for you to decide on the species you are allowed to consume, we have to add that shark, swordfish, as well as shellfish are those to be incriminated when it comes to a high content of mercury and other contaminants. All of the other inland species such as trout, some salmon varieties, as well as most of the panfish you can catch on any angling trip pose no risk to your health.
As with any other foods you might want to eat every week, the simplest rule to abide by would be to choose proteins, fats, and carbohydrates coming from local produce. So, if you have the opportunity to practice your fishing skills, don’t hesitate to do just this in the area you live. After all, you might need would be a good-quality telescopic rod or a nice rod and reel combo.
Unfortunately, this mindset cannot be used in the case of some species such as trout or salmon, which can be found in specific regions of the United States. However, you can at least pay attention to the way that the fish has been processed or kept so that you don’t risk feeding your kids any contaminants by accident.
They say wild fish is better than farmed fish but is that true?
Remember the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) we were referring to earlier on? Some say that various wild species like bluefish tend to be higher in PCBs, but the same has been found to be true with wild salmon. In such cases, it would be a good idea to consider the origin of the fish you’re going to put in your mouth.
Sometimes, it pays off to be a tad wary when it comes to believing everything that has been written down on a label, and that’s because some fish can be marketed as being wild and still be farmed, nonetheless. Believe it or not, Alaskan salmon is the best choice you can make especially during the cold season. When this article was published, there hadn’t been any standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as to whether a fish species or variety can be called organic or not. Therefore, such a claim might well be a marketing trick.
Several years ago, Asian shrimp was suspected of containing both carcinogens and prohibited antibiotics. It would be unfair to think that this is true even today, but you’re going to consume those varieties at your own risk.
Something that few people are aware of is the fact that fish can have parasites. Even though most of them are harmless, several species that can endanger the health of humans. Wikipedia has an extensive list of fish diseases and parasites that can infect anyone. In some respects, it’s better to opt for farmed fish than a wild variety because vaccination has become a common practice over the years, which has led to the destruction of such pathogens.
Various parasites such as Henneguya salminicola, which affects salmon and trout in Oregon, for instance, have been found to be harmless to humans, as well as their pets. The main issue with the fish per se is that it really doesn’t look all that appetizing with those Henneguya cysts in it.
While fish diseases evolve like any others, the health risks of consuming sushi and other dishes based on raw fish are far greater than those where it needs to be cooked properly and for a good amount of time. Even if the specialties are pathogen-free on all accounts, they can still cause a threat to the health of consumers if they are not stored properly. All of this applies in the case of any animal-based raw food, whether it’s meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.
So, when you’re going out with your friends, you need to make sure that the sushi place you plan to eat at hasn’t had any trouble with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The point is moot if you’re going to make your sushi at home because the only thing you have to do is ensure that all the ingredients have been properly stored and refrigerated.
Seafish is particularly risky if you’re a fan of seafood salads, for instance, as most of the shellfish and other types of fish that go in them aren’t properly cooked. Often times, they haven’t been processed this way because they might lose their flavor. Unfortunately, this practice leads to an increased risk for the consumer.
In conclusion, eating fish on a regular basis does, without a doubt, offer a series of undeniable benefits. If you make sure you read the labels or catch your own fish and prepare it the right way, you don’t have to deal with any risks whatsoever.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2005
- The Surprising Benefit of Eating fish, Amanda MacMillan, TIME Magazine, June 2017
- Anxiety and Depression Facts & Statistics, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, June 2017
- Fish: Friend or Foe?, Harvard School of Public Health, 2012
- FAQ’s on the benefits and risks of eating fish, Consumer Reports, 2009
- Fish diseases and parasites, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2015
- Henneguya salminicola, Fish Pathogens, 2017
Image credits: Pixabay