By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Should you eat more fish? Here's why I started eating seafood and why a seafood diet might be right for you. Hello, world of pescatarian eating!
Thinking about becoming a seafood eater? Before you decide yes or no to a seafood diet, here's all the info you'll ever need, plus a list of the best fish to eat for health. And yes, I've been researching whether you should eat fish or not for oh about...19 years!
I gave up meat 19 years ago. At the time, I'd only tasted shrimp once and had never had any other seafood. I was perfectly content with this decision, until recently when...drum roll...! I entered the world of seafood eating. Yup, I'm officially a pescatarian!
Don't worry, I'm still eating plant
based foods. I'm just getting more omega-3 fats now!
Making the switch from a 100% plant-based diet to one that features seafood was important for my health, and I'll tell you why in just a second. Is eating more seafood a great fit for you, too?
Keep on reading to learn all the ways our under-the-sea friends can boost your well-being (ahem, omega-3s!). In the meantime, I'll be cooking up some salmon and other heart-healthy fish for lunch today. By the way, salmon bacon is so good!
Hi, I'm a Pescatarian!
Yup, I'm a pescatarian now! After 19 years of eating a solely vegetarian diet, I've started noshing on tender and flaky seafood! Why the sudden change? I listened to my body. It's really that simple.
Get all the details about my new eating style (yup, it's still plant based!), plus the health benefits of seafood, in my new Instagram post, in which I announced my big news! And don't forget to press the "follow" button if you haven't already.
A Major Benefit of Eating Fish
You likely know that eating a seafood-based diet can help your blood pressure levels and help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart disease. That's because oily fish like salmon boasts omega-3 fatty acids. Thus, eating a few servings of fish a week can help your health.
It may even help you with losing weight and can help decrease your saturated fat intake by replacing high-saturated-fat meat sources.
And seafood is an incredible protein source. It's a lean protein, which means it's low in saturated fat. Seafood also supplies vitamin B12, an important nutrient that's a little more difficult to get on a completely vegetarian or vegan diet.
Enter another benefit of eating fish.
I eat a lot of eggs. Foods like eggs and dairy provide vitamin D, but even a couple of eggs doesn’t add up to the amount of the vitamin that I need daily.
You see, vitamin D is one of those foods that’s not super easy to get from food, unless you eat a lot of fatty fish or take fish liver oil. Most adults need 600 IU a day, and adults over age 70 need a little more, 800 IU (see below for food source ideas). So that means a lot of us end up taking supplements. Side note: If you don't like fish, it's totally OK to take a fish oil supplement.
Getting enough vitamin D is important for many reasons, including bone health. But if you get too much through supplement use, that could pose some risk.
A research letter in JAMA assessed the connection between higher-than-recommended intake of supplemental vitamin D intake and health outcomes.
The study authors looked at more than 39,000 survey participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. What they found: From 1999 to 2014, 18% of the people interviewed took in more than 1,000 IU daily, and 3 percent reached over the tolerable upper limit of 4,000 IU daily.
Some research connects a high vitamin D intake with potential complications such as heightened risk of fractures and falls, and a higher risk of kidney stones when the higher vitamin D intake is paired with calcium.
Given this, if you decide to supplement with vitamin D, you should discuss the amount with your healthcare provider—especially since having certain health conditions may mean that you need more or less than the recommendation.
The bottom line? Try getting your vitamin D intake from food, for example, 1 ½ teaspoons of cod liver oil or a cup of milk and some grilled salmon. If you’re taking a supplement, potentially cut back on a day’s supplement use if you’re getting enough vitamin D from food that day.
As well, always choose supplements in vitamin D3 form, as this has the biggest impact of vitamin D blood levels, versus vitamin D2. No matter what you decide, discuss all of your supplement use with your healthcare provider.
Ready to eat your vitamin D? Here are some food sources to add to your plate:
- Cod liver oil, 1 teaspoon: 448 IU vitamin D
- Sockeye salmon, cooked, 3 ounces: 447 IU vitamin D
- Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 154 IU
- Milk, fat-free, fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup: 115 to 124 IU vitamin D
- Sardines, canned in oil and drained, 2 pieces: 46 IU vitamin D
- Egg, large: 41 IU vitamin D
The Best Fish to Eat for Health
If you're like me and are completely new to eating a seafood diet, you might be at least slightly overwhelmed by the variety of fish you can purchase. Or maybe you've recently decided to eat more fish and could use some intel.
Luckily, this guide from INSIDER, in which I chat about the best heart-healthy fish you can snag, is here to help. Now, you can spend less time feeling confused in the seafood department and more time savoring those delicious fish meals!
What types of fish do you like the most?
Amy's Recipes to Try