Seafood is a popular dietary component, but environmental changes may impact this source. The ocean is one of the most damaged areas from climate change and a significant number of species face extinction from habitat loss and overfishing (x). With so many ocean species in danger, climate change may inspire a desire to refrain from seafood in an attempt to save the species. However, seafood is an essential component of a healthy diet because it is packed with different nutrients. Now that climate change is getting worse, how can people get these essential nutrients without harming the environment?
Why Eat Seafood?
Seafood is considered an essential part of a healthy daily diet. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), seafood supplies about 20 percent of daily lean protein requirements (x). Seafood may also cost less than other protein sources like pork and beef and it may be more efficient financially. Its nutritional benefits help maintain a fit and healthy body and deliver daily essential nutrients, including omega-3, cholesterol and lean protein.
Found in sources like salmon and mackerel, omega-3 helps to sustain vision. In some cases, the compound may also reduce inflammation to heal wounds or injuries and also boost brain function (x). A daily dose of omega-3 enhances a patient’s ability to learn and retain information, according to research (x). It is abundant in cold-water fatty fish, such as tuna, herring and sardines. It is also present in nuts and seeds, plant oils and some fortified foods—yogurt, juices, soy beverages and infant formulas (x).
High-density lipids (HDL) from fish like salmon may prevent plaque buildup, protect the arteries and also reduce the risk of heart disease (x). Low-density lipids (LDL) come from high fat protein sources like bacon, chicken skin and processed snacks. They remain in the bloodstream because the body does not absorb them, which might cause blockage in the arteries and capillaries. HDL from seafood may help break down LDL that accumulates in the body and encourage better blood flow (x).
Protein can help protect the muscles from damage, especially after exercise or an injury. Without adequate protein, the muscles weaken and tear and it makes it harder to repair themselves. Protein deficiency may result in difficulties recovering from exercise or injury. It can also increase the severity of infections and increase the risk of bone fractures. Protein and vitamin D deficiency increases the risk for conditions like osteoporosis (x, x).
Therefore, protein is essential for mobility and muscle health (x). However, not all proteins are ideal for health. Some protein has heavy lipid content, which can cause further problems. Seafood contains a healthy amount of protein without a heavy fat content (x).
Healthy Types of Seafood
The ocean is home to countless marine creatures, some of which are inedible. Others, on the other hand, are not only delicious but very advantageous to a patient’s health. Some of the healthiest sea creatures for a patient’s diet include pompano, arctic char, carp, mackerel, mussels and scallops.
Pompano attracts the eye with its shiny, edible skin. Unlike other fish, the scales do not need to be removed, so it is safe to eat it whole. It looks round from the side, but pompano is known for its flat body (x).
Its skeletal structure makes it easier to devour. Its meat is usually white with a moderate fat content, mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Therefore, eating this fish may help lower cholesterol instead of increasing lipid retention in the body (x). With large amounts of B-vitamins, pompano can enhance metabolism and supply boosts of riboflavin, niacin and thiamine to regulate bodily functions. The fish also enhance cognitive health and brain development (x).
Experts usually praise salmon as one of the best fish for people to eat because it’s packed with nutrients. However, salmon can be costly. To rectify, sustainable fishermen have discovered a substitute: arctic char. Arctic char has the same pink flesh but with a more delicate texture and a milder flavor (x).
It offers omega-3 fatty acids that may help lower the risk for heart disease. Research also shows that the acids are essential in improving brain function and development in infants. Omega-3 fatty acids can boost cognitive health and also help maintain it. Healthy brain function may help decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (x, x).
Arctic char delivers high-quality protein nutrients. It is saturated with fats, which makes it a healthier source of protein. It also slows down muscular degeneration and improves muscle regeneration after workouts and injuries (x).
The largest member of the minnow family is the carp. It grows up to 30 inches and weighs about 60 pounds. Carps have bronze-silver skin and large scales that can make it a little challenging to eat. However, it is a very common type of fish in the human diet. It promotes heart health because it is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and the unsaturated compounds in the meat improve cardiac function. Some studies suggest that it may also have the power to reduce the risk of heart attacks. It has an ideal fat to protein ratio and its lipid content is lower than lean beef (x).
Mackerel belongs to the Scombridae family and it is related to tuna. It mostly lives in deep waters like the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On average, it can grow up to 16 inches long and weigh up to 2.2 pounds and miniature scales cover its blue-green and silver body. It has a cylindrical shape, but it is slender and meaty. Mackerel makes a delectable source of food. Like most fish, mackerel also has omega-3 fatty acids, which help increase blood flow (x). Mackerel provides vitamin B12, which decreases the risk of anemia and nervous system damage (x).
Shellfish in general are quite impressive. They can be fried, steamed and boiled. However, they also contain large amounts of allergens and food allergies to shellfish are very common (x). They are rich in lean protein, healthy fats and micronutrients. They can help improve and maintain brain function and heart health, thanks to its vitamin B12 and omega-3 content (x).
Selenium is a lesser-known essential nutrient for humans and it is also present in shellfish. It is a crucial factor for reproductive health, thyroid hormone metabolism, preventing infection and DNA synthesis (x, x, x, x).
Overfishing is one factor that affects marine life populations. Certain species of sea creatures may take a long time to recover from population changes from fishing or habitat loss. However, using sustainable practices may allow people to consume seafood products for nutritional purposes at a lower cost. Responsible and sustainable fishing can help reduce damage to the sea creatures and their ecosystems (x).
Most of the time, these snares are made from steel wires linked together for large hauls. Fishermen put bait, like worms and minnow shrimp, into each trap with buoys or float tags. Typically fishermen use this practice to catch shellfish such as crabs and other crustaceans. Some states in the U.S. require a license to use this method (x). State laws also limit the size of the catch and it changes over time (x).
The on-bottom culture method is often designed to catch mussels and oysters. Fishermen spread oyster shells on the bottom of the ocean floor so that the shells do not get lost or buried. Then the fishermen transfer the oysters to the beach so they can grow. They collect the oysters once they reach the desirable market size (x).
Since the farmers farm on a state-governed territory, there is often a lease from the state to prove ownership. The lease grants permission to farm the oysters and create a natural oyster reef in the area (x). This method often lowers production costs because it utilizes natural ocean water and does not need a column to prosper. Still, farmers can properly care for their crops as any other aquaculture.
Similar to the bottom culture, hanging culture is for catching shelled marine life. Farmers hang the mussels and oysters inside dredgers on a stake or rod. The crustaceans rise and fall with the tide and this technique promotes better and faster growth. It prolongs the mollusks’ feeding time. However, it also brings greater costs (x).
Land-Based Fish Farming
By building an enclosed farming system, farmers have a better chance of keeping contamination, if any, in one area. There is also a smaller risk of interfering with other ecosystems. As fish grow, farmers transfer them from one chamber to another to accommodate their needs as they increase in size (x). Aside from saving more ecosystems, sustainable fishing also provides nutrient-filled food sources for humans (x).
Fish Oil Supplements
Seafood is a great source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Consuming an adequate amount of these minerals can help promote good health and possibly reduce a patient’s risk of disease. Supplements are also a good way to get these nutrients, especially fish oil supplements. They can help patients increase their vitamin intake on a consistent basis. However, they are not a cure for any medical condition. It is important to consult a physician before starting a supplement regimen.
Fatty acids make up the fat content in food and the natural fat in the human body. Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 are three main types. The fatty acids contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega 3-6-9 is a great way to benefit cardiovascular health and possibly reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attacks. It also helps with brain development and mental health, potentially helping patients manage bipolar disorder and depression. It may also help reduce inflammation in disorders like arthritis. Omega 3-6-9 softgels are a great way to get all of these nutrients in a consistent dosage. The recommended dosage is three softgels once or twice a day, with a doctor’s approval.
Fish oil contains healthy fats, specifically DHA and EPA, which are very important for health. This supplement can boost mental and physical health. Research claims that it may help fight depression and fatigue. Fish oil may also help heal skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and skin cancer. It may also help balance cholesterol and prevent blood clots. The recommended dosage for fish oil supplements is one to two softgels two to three times per day, unless a doctor advises a different dosage.
Krill is a small crustacean similar to shrimp that lives in the Antarctic Ocean. Like other fish supplements, krill oil benefits heart and immune health with its omega-3 fatty acid content. It may also help balance cholesterol and manage high blood pressure. It may also support the joints and relieve bone and joint pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The recommended dosage for krill oil supplements is two softgels one to three times a day, after consulting a physician.
The Bottom Line
The ocean is home to a vast marine life and researchers have not even explored all of it. Seafood provides a tremendous amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are essential to the human body. It contains healthy fats, lean protein and healthy cholesterol that can boost brain function and heart health.
However, some species face extinction from human exploitation. Two causes of diminishing seafood populations is habitat destruction and overfishing. But luckily there are new ways to minimize damage to these ecosystems with sustainable fishing and fish farming practices. Sustainable fishing supplies healthy fish for consumption in a more ecologically friendly way. Another way to get these nutrients in a sustainable fashion is with fish oil supplements. They help provide essential nutrients to the body consistently without consuming seafood. However, they do not prevent or treat any illness or disease. Instead, they aim to promote overall health. Consult a doctor before starting a supplement regimen to confirm their effectiveness.