Fish and shellfish in a healthy diet
Low in both total and saturated fat content, fish and shellfish are excellent sources of protein and vitamins, so you should try to include them in your diet at least twice a week.
Eating fish twice a week reduces your risk of heart disease. Fish and shellfish are high in important nutrients, such as vitamins B1, B6, niacin, and D (see Vitamin directory), and some are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits of fish
Ever since it was discovered that people such as Inuits, who eat a diet based on fish, have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease, the link between eating fish and reduced risk of heart attack has been a hot topic. Recent research confirms that eating fish, even a few times per month, can help to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Shellfish is healthy
This food source has acquired a bad reputation because some shellfish contain a high level of cholesterol. However, we now know that cholesterol levels in the blood are related to the intake of saturated fat rather than to eating cholesterol-rich foods.
Since most shellfish are very low in total fat, there is no reason to exclude them from your diet, particularly if you choose them over higher fat red meat. Be sure, though, to use low-fat cooking methods, such as steaming, baking, and grilling rather than frying.
Fish and shellfish safety
When handled properly, fish and shellfish are as safe to eat as any other source of protein. Most harmful microbes found in fish are destroyed during cooking.
Women who are pregnant or intending to become pregnant, or who are breast-feeding are advised to avoid eating any fish known to contain high levels of mercury. This is because mercury can affect the baby's developing nervous system. Shark, swordfish, and marlin contain high levels of mercury. Tuna doesn't have as high a content as these fish, but it contains more mercury than fish such as cod, haddock, plaice, and salmon. So the advice is to limit the amount of tuna eaten.
What is a serving?
- 100g (3 ½ oz) shelled mussels (20 medium)
- 100g (3 ½ oz) peeled prawns, steamed (7 medium)
- 100g (3 ½ oz) lobster meat
- 100g (3 ½ oz) shelled clams
- 100g (3 ½ oz) crab meat
- 100g (3 ½ oz) shelled oysters
- 100g (3 ½ oz) salmon, grilled
- 100g (3 ½ oz) sea bass, grilled
- 100g (3 ½ oz) tuna steak, grilled
- 100g (3 ½ oz) sardines, grilled
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