Why should I include fish in my diet?

Introduction

First of all, you’re absolutely right that fish is good for protein. A 6-ounce serving of fish would provide a day’s worth of high-quality protein for many adults.

When we include a food within the World’s Healthiest Foods, however, we never do it because of any one nutrient, like protein, or vitamin C, or calcium, or fiber. Being committed to the World’s Healthiest Foods is very different than being committed to the World’s Healthiest Nutrients. When you single out a nutrient that is contained within a food - like the protein that is contained within fish - you are really moving away from the idea of food, and over into the realm of nutrients.

Thinking about food from the perspective of it being a combination of nutrients, and patterns of nutrients, and unique ways in which the nutrients are linked together helps people to really understand what the World’s Healthiest Foods are all about. The plants and animals we eat would die long before they ever reached our dinner plate if they didn’t contain complex and unique combinations of nutrients! All of the World’s Healthiest Foods contain a variety of important nutrients, and in many cases, the combination of nutrients is totally unique.

An example of another important nutrient in fish – omega 3 fatty acids

There are many, many reasons for eating each of the World’s Healthiest Foods! For example, with respect to fish, did you know that a recent study of 3,000 adults in Finland showed depression to be 31% less common in men and women who ate fish on a weekly basis? The Finnish researchers did not think that protein was the reason. They pointed to omega 3 fatty acids - a highly beneficial type of fat contained in many fish, as the reason for the decreased symptoms of depression.

The salmon, halibut, and tuna we’ve included in the World’s Healthiest Foods are all good sources of omega 3 fatty acids. For most people in the United States, omega 3 fatty acids would be a much more important reason to eat fish than protein. But all of us need to move beyond that kind of thinking if we really want to do justice to the world of food! Just think of fish as fish - a central part of the cuisine in many coastal cultures, hardy in its adaptation to the oceans, rivers, and streams, yet also delicate in its anatomy, a sacred aspect of many traditions, and like all of the World’s Healthiest Foods, rich in a wide variety of nutrients, many of which we are only beginning to understand.

How much fish to eat – general suggestions

Many people ask us our advice on how many servings per week a particular food should be eaten. Now, while everyone has unique nutritional needs, there are some general suggestions that seem appropriate to make for most people. Regarding fish, three six-ounce servings per week would be a good target. In addition to all of the general nutritional benefits you will receive, the fish will help you to not only meet your daily protein requirements but if you eat fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna and mackerel, you will also be providing your body with a good supply of omega 3 fatty acids.

Practical tips

On the practical side, when it comes to fish, smell is a good indicator of freshness. Since a slightly “off” smell cannot be detected through plastic, pick unwrapped, displayed fish instead of fish that has been prepackaged.

When storing fish, it’s critical to keep it cold. Fish is very sensitive to temperature. Once home from the grocery or fish market, get it in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Keep a cooler in the car where you can place the fish to make sure it stays cold and does not spoil if there’s going to be more than 45 minutes between the grocery store and your refrigerator.

Click on the heading “Foods and Spices” on the home page of our website to look over our list of Fish & Seafood, or use our Recipe Assistant for our favorite recipes using your favorite fish!

This page was updated on: 2004-11-18 21:41:40
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation