The inclusion of fish on your family menu at least once a week is extremely important. Fish is touted as “the health food” of traditional foods. Weston A Price discovered that those cultures throughout the world that included seafood in their diets, exhibited the best health of all with no dental caries, a wide palate and general excellent well being. He found that those people eating fish had thicker bones and better skeletal structure than red meat eaters.
Why is seafood so good?
VITAMINS, MINERALS, PROTEINS & FATS
Many of the benefits of seafood are pinned to the high Omega 3 content. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish contains essential long chain fatty acids DHA & EPA. Although our body can make DHA & EPA from ALA (an omega 3 Fatty acid found in plants) the conversion of ALA to DHA & EPA is very inefficient and requires the use of Vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium & zinc to do so. This conversion process is also hindered by the consumption of trans fats, alcohol & sugar & high cortisol levels.
As well as containing important Omega 3 fatty acids, seafood is also a reliable source of trace minerals deficient in our soils and is a cheap and reliable source of protein. Ocean fish in particular provide a good source of macro and trace minerals, particularly iodine & zinc. As well as providing us with minerals fish is also a great source of essential fat soluble vitamins A & D. Fish consumption promotes optimal growth and bone structure and protects us from degenerative diseases that dominate the modern world.
SEAFOOD IS BRAIN FOOD
Much akin to bone marrow, the consumption of fish has also helped our brains to evolve; bigger and faster than the brains of leaf eaters. The brain is 60% fat and half the fat is DHA (a long chain Omega 3 Fatty Acid). According to Dr Andrew stoll, “without large amounts of DHA….we might not have evolved at all.”
Whilst muscle and bone are products of proteins & the brain was built by fat and is particularly hungry for Omega 3 fats found in fish. Our brains CANNOT make DHA & EPA from plant oils like walnuts & flaxseed. Our brain is in downright need of for these fatty acids found in fish.
Regular consumption of Omega 3 rich seafood contributes to better memory and brain function. It enhances sharper minds and acute thought processes and promotes overall mental health. Omega 3 supplementation in the way of fish oil is becoming well accepted in main stream medicine as an effective therapy for the treatment and prevention of depression.
HEALTHY METABOLISM & THE TRIO OF MODERN DISEASE
Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are today’s modern trio of health problems and the consumption of Omega 3 fats from seafood are preventative of these in many ways. These three common diseases are directly associated with metabolic disturbances. Blood sugar levels and fat metabolism are regulated by Omega 3 fats.
Low levels of muscular Omega 3 is linked with higher incidence of obesity. This in turn leads to diabetes and a host of other disorders such as cardiac disease & stroke.
Type 2 diabetes is extremely prevalent in today’s world and is a disease not of age, but of diet. The consumption of fish as a source of Omega 3 fats is important for decreasing the insulin resistance that occurs in diabetes and thus can help to control unstable blood sugar levels.
Research provides strong evidence that Omega 3 fats prevent heart disease. In fact they have been found to reduce the risk of sudden death during a heart attach by 20-40%. This preventative effect can occur by consuming fish just once per week.
The consumption of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in the right balance is of vital importance for health. They are both equally important in the body but have opposing affects. Unfortunately the modern western diet is very high in Omega 6 fatty acids and low in Omega 3 fatty acids. This imbalance results in a state of gross inflammation in the body that contributes to the occurrence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer & depression. On the other hand, omega 3 fats prevent inflammation and are preventative against auto-immune diseases such as crohn’s, lupus, arthritis, asthma & psoriasis.
So the evidence pile high as to the benefits and need to include seafood in the traditional foods diet. In recent years there has been some fear created around fish and high levels of mercury contamination. This is a real danger when eating fish from shorelines waters near industrial areas or from contaminated freshwaters. For this reason it is advisable to avoid fresh water fish unless you are sure of the source and to minimise consumption of shellfish.
How then do we decide which fish and seafood to use?
1. Sustainable, local & wild caught.
2. NO farmed fish – whilst many fish farms exist on the shores of the ocean, the animals are not in a natural habitat and are fed grain based foods. This in turn affects their fatty acid composition, making them quite inferior to their wild caught counterparts.
3. Avoid the larger fish
For a more comprehensive guide choosing sustainable seafood see Sarah Wilson’s post here.