Next time you’re choosing what to make for dinner, pick fish! Ever heard that fish are a must-have for a healthy diet? Well, it’s true! I am a strong advocate of emphasizing the health benefits found in our oceans. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Norway to visit with the Norwegian Seafood Council. Fish is commonplace in the diets of people from various countries, including Norway. Considering how healthy fish are, it’s no surprise they’re on my list of top 10 power foods to consume. However, more Americans should be racing to their grocery stores to stock up on fish.
Fish Consumption in America and Worldwide
According to the EPA, fish consumption by Americans, on average, is around 4.58 grams of prepared finfish and shellfish per day, and 6.30 grams of uncooked fish and shellfish per day. Seem like a lot? Well, the United States ranks third in fish consumption, but Norwegians eat more fish per day.
Unfortunately, these numbers (in America) include high levels of fried fish. Fried fish are far less healthy due to the high fat contents associated with frying. When you are out to dinner scanning the menu, do you go with grilled salmon or fish and chips? If the answer is fish and chips, your fish was likely fried in butter or hydrogenated vegetable oils, which means, trans-fat! Quite simply, fried fish doesn’t compare to say, grilled fish. Grilled fish can lower your chances of heart disease, while fried fish can up your chances.
In terms of fish consumption worldwide, China reigns supreme with 13.6 metric tons per year. Following China is Japan, with 9 metric tons. America comes in third with 4.7 metric tons. Other countries ranking in the top twenty include Indonesia (3.6), South Korea (2.7), Nigeria (1.8), the U.K. (1.5), and Italy (1.3). Norway, with 1.4 metric tons, ranks 14th.
Even though the U.S. ranks third, Americans should be doing a far better job at eating more fish.
The United States ranks third in the list only because of our large population. While we eat, on average, 4.58 grams of prepared fish per day, Norwegians eat around 65 grams per day – quite a large difference! Unlike America, fish in the Norwegian diet is second nature. I think America could learn a thing or two about how Norwegians approach seafood.
The Media and Mercury
Wondering about the dangers of mercury levels found in fish? Rather than focus on the overwhelming health benefits of fish, the FDA tends to emphasize mercury levels. Fish with higher levels of mercury include swordfish, mackerel, albacore tuna, and shark. Otherwise, the risks from mercury by eating fish and shellfish are low. For example, shrimp and salmon are low in mercury and not of any concern.
Public concerns about fish consumption are largely the result of the media’s inaccuracy about mercury in fish. Rather than make it seem that all fish are contaminated with mercury, the media could help increase knowledge about which fish to avoid and consequently, which fish to fill up on. For example, shrimp and salmon and both low in mercury.
The Health Benefits of Fish
That being said, the FDA does also state that fish and shellfish are low in saturated fat and contain high-quality protein, essential nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids. What does this mean? It means that fish is a brain-healthy and heart-healthy choice. And by the way, it’s always best to consume your Omega 3’s from eating fish or grass fed, pasture-raised animals. In fact, recent studies suggest poor quality absorption from capsulized Omegas (i.e., vitamins).
Eating fish helps to lower blood pressure and reduce the chances of heart attack and stroke. The omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and diabetes. For example, in a study of Alaskan natives who consumed salmon regularly, the researchers found that omega-3’s in fish lower the diabetes risk/
Once you try it, you’ll be hooked!