There’s no question that fish is brain food. But it can do so much more for your body, I think it should be renamed. In fact, if any food fits the definition of a “superfood,” it’s fish.
Let’s take a look at some of the newest evidence showing why you should be eating fish at least once a week.
Benefits from sight to sleep—and everything in between
Of course, as I said, boosting brain health and cognitive function are fish’s most widely recognized benefits. And the research keeps pouring in to support this connection. For instance, a recent study of 260 people with an average age of 78 showed that just one weekly serving of baked or broiled fish (but not fried!) increased areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. Including areas where Alzheimer’s disease first appears.2
I’ve also written before about how the omega 3 fatty acids in fish can protect the heart against cardiac rhythm disturbance, help lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improve blood vessel function.
And now a new study shows an even stronger link between fish and cardiovascular health.1 Over a four-week period, researchers compared the triglyceride levels of people who ate lean seafood as their primary source of protein to the triglyceride levels of people who mainly ate non-seafood sources such as lean beef.
The researchers reported that the group eating lean seafood had lower triglyceride levels—one of the chief markers for cardiovascular disease. And the fish eaters also had reduced cholesterol levels. Including LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
But brain and heart health aren’t the only entries on seafood’s impressive resume. In fact, fish may also cut your risk of macular degeneration in half.
Researchers tracked nearly 40,000 women with an average age of 55. Over a 10-year period, they found that the women who ate one or more servings of fish per week had a whopping 58% lower risk of macular degeneration compared to the women who ate fish less than once a month.3
And last but certainly not least, a new study revealed a benefit you’d probably never expect from seafood: Help with insomnia.
I’ve written before about how important sleep is to overall wellness. Lack of quality sleep has been associated with all sorts of chronic problems—some of them life threatening.
In fact, sleep is so critical to your health, I’m currently working on putting together a detailed protocol that will outline the specific strategies I use with my patients to help them overcome insomnia for good—and get the restful, restorative sleep they need, night after night. I’ll let you know as soon as the protocol is finished. But in the meantime, there’s no reason you can’t get a jump start by putting the results of this new study to good use…
Researchers analyzed the diets of 95 men. And they found those who ate salmon three times a week showed marked improvements in their sleep levels. They also functioned better throughout the day compared to the non-fish eaters.4
The researchers speculated that the results could be related to the vitamin D found in fish.
That’s an interesting point. While we often hear about the benefits of the omega-3s in fish, it’s important to remember that seafood is also a wonderful source of vitamin D (in fact, it’s one of the few natural dietary sources of this essential vitamin).
Seafood is also rich in selenium. And there’s impressive research showing this mineral can help lower your risk of cancer and diabetes.
What type of fish should you eat?
Of course, it’s important to note that not just any fish can confer these impressive health benefits. So how do you choose the true “superfood” seafood?
Well, start by avoiding larger fish like bluefish, king mackerel, grouper, sea bass, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, and tilefish, which contain high levels of mercury. Albacore, yellowfin, and ahi tuna can also be loaded with mercury. (Canned, light chunk tuna is considered OK if you limit your consumption to six or fewer servings per month.5)
Seafood with the least mercury includes anchovies, crab, crawfish, flounder, hake, oysters, perch, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, sole, squid, tilapia, trout, and whitefish.
I also recommend eating the freshest fish you can find. If you’re buying fish at a market or store, there are a few guidelines you can use to help you get the freshest catch you can.
- Buy fish whole and check to make sure the eyes are clear and not cloudy, and that the gills are bright. If you don’t want to go to the bother of cooking a whole fish, ask the folks behind the counter to filet it for you.
- The fish or filets should be firm to the touch and have an iridescent sheen.
- Ask to smell the fish. If it has a “fishy” smell, that’s a clue it’s not fresh.
And last but not least, opt for wild-caught fish rather than farmed. I’ve personally witnessed fish farms in which the fish are kept in putrid-looking water and given food that contains who knows how many toxins.
Regardless of which varieties you choose, try to incorporate fish on your menu at least once a week. And don’t forget, no matter how much fish you eat, you should also take a high-quality fish oil supplement—one that provides 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily.
1“Lean-seafood intake reduces cardiovascular lipid risk factors in health subjects: results from a randomized controlled trial with a crossover design.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Sep;102(3):582-92.
2“Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter Loss.” Am J Prev Med. 2014 Oct;47(4):444-51.
3“Dietary Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-related Macular Degeneration in Women.” Arch Ophthalmol 2011 Jul: 129(7): 921-929.
4“Fish Consumption, Sleep, Daily Functioning, and Heart Rate Variability.” J Clin Sleep Med. 2014 May 15; 10(5): 567–575.