The bounty of the sea has been a staple source of nutrition since prehistoric times. Regularly consuming fish and other sea creatures have been found to benefit the human body in many different ways.
Although it is a naturally healthy form of nutrition, supplying many of the essential fatty acids, high-quality protein, and many other essential nutrients, seafood has also been found to have certain risks associated with frequent consumption.
Fish and the many creatures that inhabit the ocean are filter feeders, this means they gain nutrients by filtering water through gills and such. This means that contaminated water has an opportunity to affect their health and the health of those feeding off them.
Understanding the risks of eating seafood and the major benefits it can provide to a healthy lifestyle is the first step in enjoying this delicious food and avoiding any of the negative side effects.
Following is a list of the most important health benefits and major risks associated with eating seafood.
Benefits of Seafood
- Good for the HeartIt is no coincidence that the fish loving Inuit populations living north of the arctic circle are known for low levels of heart disease. Seafood doesn’t have many saturated fats but does have plenty of omega-3 healthy fats which not only protect the heart from disease but have been found to lower the amounts of cholesterol in the blood.
- Mobilize the JointsAs part of a regular diet, fish can have notable benefits to those suffering the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. The effect is so impressive that research is being done on the link between omega-3 and osteoarthritis, perhaps a prevention if not a cure is in sight.
- Something for the EyesThe high-quality fish oils have been found to keep the eyes bright and functioning. Retinol is a special kind of Vitamin A found in fish, it has been studied for its capacity to improve night vision. Furthermore, omega-3 fats can help to prevent the loss of eyesight due to conditions of AMD, age-related macular degeneration.
- Balance the moodsSeafood is bountiful in essential nutrients that can help to balance out many of the body’s functions. One function that is greatly improved by seafood is mood balance. Research has shown that low levels of omega-3 -can be linked to clinical depression, postnatal depression, and seasonal affective disorder also called SAD.
- Boost the BrainAccording to certain culinary historians, it was not until humans began to consume fish as a regular part of the diet, that the human brain really began to expand to the paradigm of intelligence it is today. The human brain is largely fatty tissues, mostly omega 3 fatty tissues.This may be the reason that those who have had a diet rich in fish are less likely to suffer from memory problems or dementia as they get older. DHA is a special omega-3 fat that is very plentiful in certain fish, it has also been linked to improving cognitive skills in school-aged children.
Risks Associated with Seafood
- Mercury and ContaminantsAs filter feeders, many forms of seafood will carry a certain amount of mercury. Although this has not been found especially harmful in most people, there are certain people who have exhibited a greater sensitivity to mercury in fish. Small children and pregnant mother should be more careful when consuming seafood than most.Problems with global pollution have also left other contaminants to be aware of. Pesticides and heavy metals can be collected by sea creatures and transferred to human consumers. The levels will vary greatly depending on the fish’s location and the quality of the water.
Nevertheless, if the consumption of seafood is kept below 12 oz. per week, the presence of any contaminants will be too small to be a problem— even for pregnant women and children.
- Foodborne IllnessThere have also been cases of serious illness from eating certain seafood. Illnesses such as salmonella, e.coli, hepatitis and Norwalk Virus have been associated with the consumption of seafood. This can affect anyone, but people with diabetes, liver disease, and gastrointestinal issues are especially susceptible and should consume with care.To lower the risk of foodborne illnesses, only purchase seafood from a reputable provider, eat only well-cooked seafood and always store seafood properly.
- AllergyOver 7 million Americans are allergic or severely allergic to seafood and more specifically shellfish. These allergies are irreversible, but it is unlikely an individual will know they are allergic until they have reached adulthood.If any members of your family have presented seafood allergies, there is a good chance you have them too. Reactions usually occur within minutes of consumption and can be characterized by swelling, dizziness and wheezing.
The only way to avoid reactions is to avoid seafood, although, some people with allergies to shellfish are not allergic to fin fish.