5 Reasons to Eat More Fish

From gluten-free diets to coconut oil, food trends come and go. But a few nutritional recommendations have remained constant: Make leafy greens a large part of your diet. Cut out refined sugar. Limit alcohol. However, there’s one piece of dietary advice few truly embrace, but really should: Eat more fish. If you’re a seafood skeptic, check out the following fish-related health facts, and become a convert:

  1. Fish is great for your heart. Many fish species contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats, which can’t be produced by the body and must come from foods, help maintain a normal metabolism. They also pack a real punch when it comes to sustaining overall heart health: Omega-3s can "decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque [the build up of cholesterol and other substances in the arteries], and lower blood pressure," according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
  2. Fish can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. The bodily benefits of omega-3s don’t stop at the heart. In fact, a diet rich in these healthy fats may reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Research cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center finds that regularly eating certain species of fish or taking fish oil can ease joint pain and morning stiffness.
  3. Fish can make you smart. According to a recent study, making fish a regular part of your diet may benefit your mind, too. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that eating fish once a week may improve memory and overall cognitive ability. In a 10-year multicenter study, researchers kept track of the diet habits of 260 people who were periodically given brain scans. Investigators concluded that those who ate baked or broiled fish at least once a week saw an average growth of 4.3 percent in grey matter in the areas of the brain responsible for memory. What may be even more impressive is that the fish-eating subset saw an average increase in cognition of 14 percent.
  4. Fish can help you lose weight. Many fish varieties, such as salmon, tuna, and cod, are high in protein, which can promote lean muscle growth. However, unlike beef and other forms of meat, fare from the sea tends to be extremely low in saturated and trans fats. So, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, you may want to look to the seafood counter for help.
  5. Fish is loaded with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system, metabolize essential minerals, and maintain cognitive function. While sun exposure permits the body to manufacture some vitamin D, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can be dangerous, increasing your risk of skin cancer. Instead, get your daily dose of vitamin D by eating oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and herring.

The AHA recommends eating fish at least two times a week. Still, preparation is key: Baking or broiling your seafood will help retain its nutritional value without adding unnecessary calories or fat. So, the next time you’re considering what’s for dinner, turn to the sea.

Alison Massey MS, RD, CDE, LDN reviewed this article.


"Eating Baked or Broiled Fish Weekly Boosts Brain Health, Pitt Study Says." University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. August 4, 2014. 

"Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids." American Heart Association. August 15, 2014.  

"Omega-3 Fatty Acids." University of Maryland Medical Center. August 15, 2014. 

"What Is Vitamin D? What Are The Benefits Of Vitamin D?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. August 15, 2014. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php