Foodies and health nuts alike have good reason to love seafood, given the wide range of seafood health benefits and culinary masterpieces you can cook up. Want more reasons to eat healthy seafood? Check out the top five health benefits of getting enough seafood in your diet.

Mom & Daughter Preparing Shrimp - Seafood Health Benefits

Top 5 Health Benefits of Eating Seafood
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Top 5 Health Benefits of Eating Seafood

1. Eating seafood helps your heart. The heart health benefits are so pronounced that heart healthiness is one of the more well-known seafood health facts. The American Heart Association confirms that eating 3.5 ounces (about ¾ cup of flaked fish) of (oily) fish or shellfish twice a week reduces the risk of heart disease, heart failure, congestive heart failure, stroke, and sudden cardiac death -- oh my!! The AHA recommends selecting fatty fish or shellfish to maximize seafood’s heart health benefit. How, exactly, does seafood benefit the heart? It's seafood's Omega-3 fatty acid content that does the trick. Omega-3's work to reduce cholesterol while decreasing inflammation in the body. This anti-inflammatory effect reduces damage to the blood vessels, thereby protecting against heart disease and stroke. Omega-3's may also decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood clotting, all of which have a protective effect for the circulatory system.

When you're preparing seafood with your heart on your sleeve, be sure to cook it without frying (ie. steam, bake, saute, etc.), and don't add too much salt or sugar. Eating a variety of fish is also key, so feel free to go crazy when you're perusing’s selection of fresh, sustainable salmon, tuna, finfish, and more.

2. Eating seafood helps your brain. Seafood’s brain-boosting action is perhaps one of the lesser-known seafood health facts. But, lest we forget (pun intended), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that we actually have Omega-3 fatty acids to thank, yet again. Specifically, a type of Omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is not just helpful for the brain; it is required to keep the brain functioning normally. The mechanism is simple: since the brain and nervous system tissues are partially comprised of fat, they have a hunger and thirst, shall we say, for DHA. In fact, low DHA consumption is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life. So, preempt brain malfunction by consistently consuming enough seafood.

3. Eating healthy seafood can help you lose weight. Seafood lovers, go ahead and rejoice; eating healthy seafood can help you drop pounds. The logic is pretty simple: when you replace unhealthy, high-fat, high-calorie foods with healthy seafood (which is naturally high in protein and low in calories), you fill up more quickly without piling on the pounds. There is also a bit of psychology involved. Since seafood is a versatile culinary option, with the sky being the limit as far as recipe ideas and healthy cooking methods, you can incorporate healthy seafood into your diet without feeling deprived. Go ahead. Order some fresh seafood with that next meal. Seafood is a guilt-free indulgence any day.

4. Eating healthy seafood during pregnancy can aid brain development in developing fetuses. Seafood’s heavy metal content is the subject of much confusion amongst seafood lovers and health fanatics alike. Let’s get to the bottom of these oft-misunderstood seafood health facts. Harvard University reports that yes, pollutants contaminate the foods we eat each and every day -- animal, vegetable, and mineral. Seafood is no exception, so we're wise to be having this conversation.

When it comes to seafood, the contaminants most likely to be present are mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins, and pesticides. Let's be clear that yes, very high mercury levels can damage a young child or developing fetus' nervous system. Meanwhile, lower mercury doses have been shown to have mixed results -- i.e. subtle-to-nonexistent impacts on nervous and cardiovascular system development. Meanwhile, the impact of PCBs and dioxins is even less clear. In the US food supply chain, more than 90 percent of PCBs and dioxins come from non-seafood sources like meat, dairy, and even vegetables. In fact, the impacts of seafood on fetal health are so ambiguous that the Institute of Medicine called the risk to fetuses from eating fish "overrated." So, instead of eliminating seafood from a pregnant woman's diet altogether, the Harvard report suggests striking a balance by first recognizing that cutting out seafood is likely to harm a developing fetus’ brain development. To strike a balance, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women who could become pregnant should eat two servings of seafood a week, just like everyone else. Meanwhile, follow the EPA's advice on avoiding "heavy metal seafood" including shark, swordfish, mackerel, and golden snapper. Instead of these sea creatures, select low-mercury seafood like shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, and canned light (not Albacore) tuna.

Omega-3 Seafood Health Benefits

5. Doctors recommend eating seafood twice each week. While we’re talking about seafood health facts, let’s go ahead and discuss what the medical community recommends as far as weekly seafood consumption. Harvard University reports again on the medical community's consensus. The votes have been tallied, and the results are clear: complete with Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, and protein, with little to no saturated fat, seafood is a quintessential part of a healthy diet. In fact, medical experts combed no fewer than 20 studies on the impact of fish-sufficient diets on heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and other conditions. The results confirmed that eating seafood twice a week does in fact do the body good.

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Seafood with the Most Omega-3s

The health benefits of seafood can be greatly linked to their Omega-3-rich composition. Here are some of our healthy seafood options, along with their Omega-3 content.

Salmon: 4,504 mg
Anchovy: 3,600 mg
Trout: 1,743 mg
Sardines: 1,668 mg
Tuna (Yellowfin): 1,466 mg
Mussels: 1,330 mg
Oysters: 1,170 mg
Swordfish: 1,157 mg
Pollock (Atlantic): 843 mg
Halibut: 740 mg
Crab: 700 mg
Scallops: 620 mg
Shrimp: 534 mg
Clams: 482 mg
Catfish (farmed): 300 mg
Mahi Mahi: 221 mg
Cod (Atlantic): 284 mg
Lobster: 142 mg

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