The Health Benefits of Eating Fish
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
Eating fish as part of a balanced diet can have a range of health benefits. For one, fish is high in protein but low in calories, making it a good food to incorporate if you are trying to lose weight. In addition, the healthy fats in fish may promote heart and brain health.
Popular varieties of fish include cod, salmon, halibut, mackerel, and tuna, as well as shellfish, such as oysters, shrimp, mussels, and lobster. If fish is prepared without unnecessary added fats, salt, or breading, it can be an incredibly nutritious addition to your diet.
Nutrition of Fish
While the exact nutrient profile of fish depends on the type, most fish have some similarities. For instance, they are naturally high in protein and contain some amount of healthy fats. They also contain several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, and zinc.
A three-ounce serving of salmon has 17 grams of protein, 8% of the Daily Value (DV) for potassium, 5% of the DV for magnesium, and over three grams of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids for less than 200 calories.
Eating foods that are high in protein and other nutrients but relatively low in calories can be especially helpful if you are trying to lose weight. These foods can help keep you satisfied and prevent unnecessary overeating.
The Benefits of Healthy Fats in Fish
Fish is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, or “healthy” fats. In particular, fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that are known to provide a number of health benefits.
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are most likely the result of their ability to fight chronic inflammation in the body that may promote disease development. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower high triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease and cardiac events (3, 4).
How to Prepare Fish in a Healthy Way
To reap the benefits of fish, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of nonfried fish per week.
Most fish on restaurant menus is breaded, fried, and loaded with salt. In these instances, fish is no longer a healthy and lean protein option that satisfies that AHA’s recommendations for weekly fish intake.
If you are interested in increasing your fish intake and reaping the health benefits, ask for fish to be baked, grilled, or broiled when ordering at a restaurant. Or, you can prepare fish in your own kitchen!
To make fish at home, you only need to brush the fillets with a thin layer of olive oil, add a dash of salt, pepper, or other herbs and spices, and bake, broil, or grill them until they are flaky and tender.
Note from Healthy For Life Meals: We follow the American Heart and American Diabetes Associations’ guidelines by incorporating two servings of non-fried fish each week! You can enjoy delicious, tender fish and reap all of the health benefits without having to prepare it yourself. Get started with one of our plans today.