Just about every nutrition expert recommends eating lots of fish – at least once a week, preferably more often. The fish most often cited to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes is wild salmon.
However, wild salmon is expensive, sometimes not available, and some people just don’t like the taste. Farmed salmon can have toxic PCBs from pollution and artificial additives.
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Fortunately, there are many seafood alternatives that have health benefits comparable to those of wild salmon.
“The key is to aim for what we call long-chain omega-3 fats without getting mercury,” says Dr. Steven Masley, president of The Masley Health Center in Tampa, Fla., and author of the new book The 30-Day Tune-up.
“This generally boils down to fish that live in cold water, have small mouths, and short life spans.”
Masley tells Newsmax Health that long-chain omega-3 fats occur in cold-water algae that move up the food chain as they are consumed by fish. Bigger fish usually have more omega-3 fats because they are higher in the food chain.
“In humans, long-chain omega-3 fats enhance brain performance, decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death, lower inflammation, improve blood sugar control, improve cholesterol profiles, decrease arthritis joint pain – and that’s just the beginning of the health benefits,” Dr. Masley says.
Fish with small mouths tend to eat lower on the food chain and therefore accumulate less heavy metal in their tissues. That’s why most salmon, a small-mouthed fish, has a nearly undetectable mercury level. Similar-sized grouper or tuna, which both have larger mouths and eat bigger prey, have more mercury.
“I test for mercury in all of my patients and here in Florida, nearly 30 percent of them have high mercury levels,” said Dr. Masley. “This is usually from all the tuna and grouper they eat.
“The irony is that more people are eating fish for their health, but in some cases they are harming themselves because they are eating varieties with a lot of mercury, which is a neurotoxin.”
The lifespan of a fish is also important. Halibut can live up to 20 years and will accumulate much higher mercury levels than a wild salmon that lives between 2-4 years.
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Beyond salmon, excellent seafood sources of omega 3s abound.
Here are expert recommendations:
- Herring: Atlantic herring has a whopping 2 grams (2,000 mgs) of omega-3 per 3-ounce serving. It is also a rich source of vitamin D.
- Sardines: Sardines have 1,259 mgs of omega-3s per serving and supply more calcium than a cup of low-fat milk. Caveat: Don’t buy sardines packed in cottonseed oil, a genetically modified oil that is not healthy.
- Rainbow trout: This tasty fish has 20 grams of protein per serving and 1 gram (1,000 mgs) of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Pollock: This is the type of fish commonly used in fish sticks. But stick with the filet form instead. One serving provides 73 percent of your daily needs of selenium, which lower diabetes risk, and 500 mgs of omega-3s.
- Catfish: This Southern staple has 100 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin B12, which helps reduce cognitive decline and 200 mgs of omega-3s.
- Oysters: A 3-ounce serving contain 300 mgs of omega-3s and a third of the daily requirement of iron.
- Albacore tuna: Many tuna are high in mercury, but the kind that is commonly canned – albacore – are typically smaller fish that are lower in mercury. The key is to check the label to make sure it is “troll- or pole-caught” in the U.S. or British Columbia. These cold-water tuna are higher in omega-3s than their warm-water counterparts.
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