Seafood is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but most of us can go weeks at a time without touching either fish or shellfish. The health benefits are so numerous that it is highly recommended that everyone should up their intake. Recommendations state that you will receive the best health benefits from eating a 100g portion of seafood twice a week. But what are the best types of seafood, and how can you incorporate them into your diet?

The Health Benefits Of Seafood

Seafood is particularly good for you because it is both low in saturated fat and high in protein. The best type of seafood for health benefits is oily fish. Although ‘oily’ doesn’t always suggest ‘healthy’, in this case, the oils contained in certain types of fish and some shellfish can actually benefit your cardiovascular health.

The most beneficial element of oily fish is an essential fat called long chain omega-3, or omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that omega 3 can help lower the risk of heart disease, maintain healthy blood pressure and good cholesterol levels while reducing levels of bad cholesterol. Evidence also suggests that it could help reduce the risk of stroke by reducing the risk of blood clotting.

Omega-3 has other less well-known benefits in the fight against depression. Recent evidence suggests eating the recommended amount of omega-3 can help prevent bouts of depression, and could also have some effect in treating it. Some evidence also suggests that as a superfood, oily fish containing omega-3 could be used in the fight against dementia, prostate cancer, and schizophrenia.

Vitamins and Minerals

Besides omega 3, seafood also contains multiple other essential vitamins and minerals including B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, and vitamin B, all of which perform different functions within the body. By eating more omega-3 rich foods you could benefit your joint health, eyesight, brainpower, and immune function.

Seafood Sources of Omega-3

Omega-3 can be found in the following:

  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Pilchards
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh (not canned) tuna
  • Trout
  • Whitebait
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Squid
  • Crab

Other Types of Seafood

Not all seafood counts as oily fish and other types of fish do not contain such high levels of omega-3. There are still plenty of benefits to eating more non-oily fish, though. Tinned tuna, for instance, is not considered an oily fish since its levels of omega-3 are less, but it is still an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, and numerous essential minerals.

Forms of white fish, such as cod, haddock, plaice and pollock are not as omega-3-rich as their oily counterparts, but they do contain low levels of the fatty acid. In addition, white fish is low in fat, particularly saturated fat, and high in protein. It is always best to choose grilled, baked or steamed fish rather than fried, keeping the saturated fat content as low as possible.

Restrictions – Childhood and Pregnancy

There are some types of fish that children, pregnant women, women who are trying to get pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding should avoid. In particular, swordfish and tinned tuna contain higher levels of mercury than other fish which can damage foetal development and a child’s nervous system. The advice is that these should be avoided entirely by the above-named groups, while other adults should restrict their intake to no more than one portion per week. Most types of white fish, on the other hand, are fine to eat as many times a week as you choose.

For more information and advice on eating a balanced diet, please visit NHS Choices.