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October 31, 2019 | Abigail Mckay

Health Benefits of Eating Fish

Fish and shellfish are an integral part of many people’s diets due to the numerous health benefits derived from seafood. The Mediterranean diet prioritizes seafood, especially heart-healthy fish, as a foundational element to achieve success with this diet.  So, why is it that some people refuse to get on board with this heart-healthy food? The general consensus is because of possible toxins, mercury content, and contamination from bacteria, all of which can be consequences of poorly chosen seafood. 


Fish is an excellent source of many beneficial nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium.  They also provide protein, a vital part of a well-rounded diet. In particular, omega-3 fats aid heart health, such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate.  Also, healthy fats reduce cholesterol levels, specifically triglycerides.  Cholesterol is what can build up in arteries, which can cause narrowing, thus leading to a heart attack or a stroke.  While these are substantial benefits, some cannot get past the possible risks. For a person who is on-the-fence regarding the consumption of fish, it comes down to deciding whether the benefits outweigh the risks?


As mentioned above, there are a few risks when eating seafood.  Toxins, such as mercury, are high in certain types of seafood, such as tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and marlin. Particular types of seafood also have a risk of bacterial growth, especially raw fish and shellfish like oysters, scallops, and clams.  In addition, some people steer clear of fish simply because they are unsure of how to cook it.  Whatever the case, there are tips to consider to boost your desire to integrate seafood into your diet.  The strong connection between heart health and seafood is evident, so let’s give you peace of mind about the doubts surrounding seafood.


1. Steer Clear of Fish with a High Mercury Content

a. Nearly all sources of seafood have some degree of mercury, but the fish with high mercury content has been listed above. Pregnant women and young children should steer clear of seafood unless otherwise indicated by your physician.  

b. Mercury poisoning can occur if you are ingesting large quantities of seafood for extended periods of time.  Although rare, symptoms include memory problems, numbness, and tremors.  

c. 12 ounces of seafood per week is encouraged, which is the equivalent of 2 meals.  


2. Avoid Raw Seafood

a. Oysters are the typical seafood item that is eaten raw.  There is always a chance of a vibriosis infection, which is an infection that can be acquired from raw oysters that causes vomiting and diarrhea.  In severe cases, the infection can become systemic. 

b. If you enjoy consuming oysters and do not plan to stop eating them, it is essential to be aware of the risks involved.  


3. Grill, Bake or Sauté Seafood

a. There are a variety of ways to cook seafood that are simple and quick.  Do not be turned away from eating seafood because you are afraid to learn a new cooking technique. Maybe even consider a cooking class to make it fun!


In conclusion, small amounts of fish or seafood once or twice a week is a healthy, delicious addition to your diet.  However, young children and pregnant women should steer clear of seafood.

Abigail Mckay

Abigail has been a nurse for five years, and throughout her time as a nurse, she has worked in multiple medical-surgical units as well as spent time in the infusion therapy clinic and endoscopy lab. She is passionate about preventative medicine through patient education regarding nutrition and exercise. Due to her passion, Abigail has gone on to earn two certifications including a certification in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) and a certification in holistic nursing (HNB-BC), in hopes of being able to better serve her patients. Abigail earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA and now bettering patient education in the healthcare system through partnering with American TelePhysicians.