The Health Benefits of Adding Fish to Your Diet

Would you believe that adding one food to your diet twice each week can improve both your brain and heart health?  It sounds fishy, but according to associations like the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic, it’s completely true.  One to two servings of grilled, broiled, or baked fish can radically improve your health.fish-for-web-470x290

Fish is one of the most nutrient-dense foods widely available, containing protein, vitamin-D, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s the omega-3 fatty acids that lead to better brain health and reduce the risks of stroke and heart disease. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel have the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.  Don’t be afraid of the term “fatty acids”.  Unlike the saturated fats found in deep-fat fried junk food, these fatty acids are unsaturated and not only improve your health but also may improve the effectiveness of certain medications like antidepressants. According to Mayo Clinic, these fatty acids lower the body’s inflammation that leads to damaged blood vessels. In a study done in the United States that involved more than 40,000 men, eating at least one serving of fish per week resulted in a 15% lower risk of heart disease.

Although the heart benefits are astounding, your brain benefits from eating more fish, too.  As we age, our brain begins to lose grey matter.  Grey matter stores memories and the lack of grey matter reduces cognitive function.  People that eat fish at least once each week have more grey matter than those that don’t, leading to better cognition and mental function even as they age.

So how much fish do you need to include in your diet to reap the maximum benefits? Mayo Clinic recommends two servings of fatty fish each week.  One serving size is generally considered to be 3.5 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards).  Pregnant women and young children should limit the amount of fish they consume and be sure only to eat fish lower in the food chain, and subsequently, lower in mercury. Mercury has been linked to complications with brain development in unborn babies and young children.

Not a fan of fish, but interested in adding more fish to your diet?  Try a mild fish and pair liberally with fresh herbs, spices, or lemon juice to find a taste that better suits you.  White fish is generally considered to have a milder taste than darker fish.

Sampling recipes for fish tacos or adding fish to a salad of your favorite mixed vegetables might change your mind about fish.  Like every food, experimentation may lead to a new favorite recipe, rich in nutrients and flavor!

No matter how you flavor your fish, be sure to limit the amount of fried fish you add to your diet.  While you’re eating to improve your health, preparation of your food matters almost as much as what you eat!

Do you enjoy fish?  Share your tips for making fish at home in the comment section.

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