The Health Benefits of Eating Fish
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
If you’ve got salt water in your blood, chances are you’re a seafood lover. That’s a good thing, especially as you age. Fish is a source of lean protein that contains healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals the body needs in a nice, little, easy to prepare package.
However, if seafood isn’t your thing, there are still ways to get the health benefits provided by fish without actually consuming them. Vegans, rejoice.
Let’s deep dive into the benefits of eating fish and also talk about what you can do to get these same benefits, sans seafood.
What Is Healthy Aging?
We all want to age as healthfully as possible, and researchers have determined, through observational studies, that some vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are increasingly important to our bodies as we get older.
Healthy aging refers to maintaining the same level of wellness you enjoy without interruption from age-related illnesses. Basically, it refers to keeping your quality of life as long as possible.
Examples of age-related illnesses that can impact your health are:
- Physical disabilities like bone fractures, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Unbalanced blood sugar, insulin resistance, type II diabetes
- Weight gain or loss
- Cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease, confusion, and brain fog
These types of illnesses usually develop slowly, over a period of time, and rob us of the lifestyles we enjoy. Here’s how to fight back.
How To Eat To Age Healthfully
Hippocrates told us, “Let food be thy medicine,” and in terms of healthful aging, he was spot on. Our diets have a massive impact on our health, and as we age that impact becomes more noticeable.
Aside from eating a variety of different foods and ensuring you aren’t eating too many or too few calories, there are a few different key nutrients that can help you age healthfully and lower your risk of developing age-related illness.
Protein is one of the three major macronutrients, but as we age it’s even more important to get sufficient protein in our diets. Due to changes in taste, appetite, and even dental issues, older adults may not get as much protein as they should.
Protein keeps us from losing muscle mass, which is critical as we get older. We begin to lose muscle at a rate of about 3 to 8% per year after the age of 30. Getting enough protein in our diets can help us avoid losing too much muscle and ensure our muscles are strong enough to support our bones.
Just like we needed calcium when we were children to help build strong bones, our aging bodies need calcium to keep our bones dense. Loss of bone density plagues older populations and is responsible for producing fractures and breaks that can take us out of the game for months and even years.
The older we get, the more serious fractures become. Additionally, type 2 diabetes is often associated with osteoporosis, so taking in more calcium can help reduce your risk of developing both.
Vitamin B12 is essential in helping prevent cognitive decline. It also helps us maintain red blood cell health, which is vital at any age. Red blood cells oxygenate our entire bodies, so it’s crucial that red blood cells stay healthy and function properly.
Cognitive decline is concerning to anyone, and as we age our likelihood of developing issues with cognition increases. Vitamin B12 helps support brain and memory health, which can keep you sharper, longer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If you’re over the age of 35 you’ve probably taken a fish oil supplement, or maybe you still currently do. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, which means our bodies need them to function properly but can’t make them on their own. That means we have to get them from our food.
Omega-3 has a myriad of benefits, including support for brain and eye health. You probably also know that omega-3 fatty acids are “heart-healthy,” which means they aren’t the kind of fatty acid that clogs your arteries and puts you at risk of stroke and heart attack.
Some fatty acids, like omega-3s, are actually associated with increased heart health and lowering your risk of a heart attack.
Some of the main benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Reduced risk of developing certain cancers
- Supporting healthy cognition in mature adults
- Helping reduce the occurrence of macular degeneration
- Helping soothe discomfort from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
These nutrients are important, but what do they have to do with fish?
Fish are healthy parts of a balanced diet and they contain B12, calcium, protein, and omega-3, which make them ideal for consumption as we get older. However, you don’t need to wait until you hit 50 to start adding pollock to your plate.
The sooner you begin eating fish, the more you’ll reap the benefits.
Fish are a source of lean protein, which is better for your body than fattier cuts of red meat that are associated with heart disease. While all fish will contain protein, some fish contain more of the other nutrients (like calcium, omega-3, and B12) than others.
Fish Containing Calcium
Many varieties of fish contain calcium, but the fish that contain the most are sardines, anchovies, and salmon. Each contains between 125-380 mg of calcium per serving.
Fish Containing B12
B12 can be found in fish also. The fish with the highest sources of B12 are herring, sardines, salmon, tuna, and trout.
Fish Containing Omega-3
Omega-3s can be found in virtually any fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, albacore, and sardines, but there’s a catch, and it’s not just for pregnant women.
You’ll want to avoid fish that can contain high levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or “PCBs.” Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are all known for containing more mercury than other types of fish. All fish, unless they are farm-raised, carry some risk of PCB contamination.
What If I Hate Fish?
To get the health benefits of fish, you’ll need to consume 6-8 ounces per week, or roughly two servings of fish a week. Those are some heavy amounts of fish, especially if you don’t like it.
If you’re a landlubber in terms of your diet, that’s okay. You can still reap the benefits that fish offer without ever having to plate up a single catfish.
Fish aren’t the only sources of B12, calcium, omega-3, or protein. There are so, so many alternatives to protein, including vegan sources like beans and wheat gluten. Omega-3s can be found in walnuts, flaxseed, beans, and edamame.
Calcium is found in dairy products and also in leafy green vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts. Many of these sources also contain vitamin D, which helps your body better absorb the calcium you eat.
It seems easier to pop a pill to get our daily dose of essential vitamins and nutrients, and having them available helps us make up for gaps in our diet.
Omega-3 supplements (also known as fish oil supplements) are wildly popular and available practically anywhere you shop. The problem is, they aren’t as good for you as just regular fish consumption.
Most omega-3 supplements contain some pretty strange ingredients, like mixtures of fish oils and algae oils. Additionally, it takes a lot of omega-3 (like 2-3k meg per day) to meet your daily requirement because your body doesn’t absorb the omega-3 you get in a supplement as well as it does from eating fish.
Lastly, there’s the aftertaste. There’s no way of avoiding it; even if you buy a “burpless” formula, you’ll always get a fishy aftertaste that lingers for hours. You may have a little lingering flavor after a seafood dinner, but it doesn’t compare to the supplement.
A Different Approach
What if we told you there was another option; a way to get many of the health benefits of fish, without eating fish or taking fishy supplements? There is, and it comes in the form of pentadecanoic acid.
The foundation of your health is in your cells, so it stands to reason that when our cells are healthy, we are healthy. As we get older, our cells simply wear out. They become flimsy and sluggish, which affects our organs and entire systems in our bodies.
Sluggish, tired cells lead to age-related illness, so it’s important we’re proactive in keeping our cells youthful. Pentadecanoic acid to the rescue!
Pentadecanoic acid (aka C15:0) is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that a growing body of research indicates is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered since omega-3.
First discovered in a population of dolphins that aged more healthfully than a sister population that had lower circulating levels of C15:0, this fatty acid supports your body on the cellular level two ways:*
1. Cell walls. As we get older, our cell walls become flimsy and susceptible to breakdown. Omega-3 doesn’t help keep your cell membranes strong; in fact, it makes them flimsy. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that digs into cell walls, fortifying them and keeping them strong.
2. Supports mitochondria. The mitochondria in our cells power them to carry out their cellular processes. When we get older, our mitochondria get slower. C15:0 helps support mitochondrial function, boosting it by up to 45%; some serious horsepower for cells on the decline.
The bottom line: C15:0 gives your cells a fighting chance to thrive as they get older.* It also delivers some of the great health benefits you get by eating fish, but without any fishy aftertaste, risk of mercury, or scary chemicals. Want it in your diet? Here’s how.
Fatty15 is the first C15:0 supplement, containing the pure vegan version of C15:0, FA15™. It offers many of the benefits of eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement without giving you fishy breath.
Additionally, it helps balance processes like appetite, mood, sleep, and immunity by binding to special receptors in your body called PPARs, so you’ll get more benefits delivered to you in a safe, easy-to-take capsule.*
The best part, you only need 100mg per day of fatty15 a day, because your body is already an expert at absorbing it.
Even if you decide to keep trout on the table, adding fatty15 is the smart choice for aging on your own terms.
Reviewed by Dr. Eric Venn-Watson.
Sources:PCBs in fish and shellfish | Seafood Selector
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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