Seafood is a high‐protein food that is lower in calories, total fat, and saturated fat when compared to other protein‐rich animal foods. High in vitamins and minerals, seafood has been shown to have numerous nutrition and health benefits. For example, recent studies have shown that eating seafood can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension. Seafood also provides essential nutrients for developing infants and children.
Calories and Protein
Seafood is a low‐calorie protein source. Most low‐fat species of fish, such as cod, flounder, and sole, contain less than 100 calories per 4‐ounce cooked portion, and even fattier fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon have about 200calories per serving. Seafood is a complete protein source. It contains enough of the essential amino acids, which our bodies need for growth and repair. A 4‐ounce serving of fish or shellfish provides about 30‐40% of the average daily recommended amount of protein. The protein in seafood is also easier to digest because seafood has less connective tissue than red meat and poultry.
Fat and Cholesterol
Seafood is low in total fat and saturated fat. Most fish and shellfish contain less than 5% total fat, and even the fattier fish, such as mackerel and king salmon, have no more than 15% fat. Furthermore, a large proportion of the fat in seafood is polyunsaturated, including omega‐3fatty acids, which have added health benefits. Omega‐3s are essential fatty acids that are required for healthy human development. These organic compounds are not produced in substantial amounts by the human body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Scientific evidence suggests that the marine‐derived long‐chain omega‐3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help reduce the risk of heart disease and contribute to brain and vision development in infants. While omega‐3s from plant sources, called alpha‐linolenic acid (ALA), is a precursor to EPA and DHA, it is converted at rates of less than 10% in the human body and is not associated with the same powerful health benefits as omega‐3sfrom seafood. United States health organizations recommend 250 mg of EPA/DHA per day. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 mg of EPA/DHA per day for patients with coronary heart disease. Fish with medium to high levels of omega‐3 fatty acids include oily ocean fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
Cholesterol is present at varying amounts in most animal foods. Current dietary recommendations suggest limiting cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) per day. Almost all fish and shellfish contain well under 100 mg of cholesterol per serving, and many of the leaner types of fish have less than 60 mg.
Vitamins and Minerals
Fish is a natural source of B‐complex vitamins, vitamin Dand vitamin A (especially oily fish). Fish contains minerals such as selenium, zinc, iodine, and iron. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that protects against cell damage and may help to counter any negative effects of mercury. Small fish ate whole, such as scanned sardines and anchovies, are an important source of calcium needed for bone development.
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