Is Eating Fish Healthy?

By Cathryn Whitehead

Many studies have been done on food to determine which ones have the best health benefits. In some cases, food that provides a number of positive effects could also contain harmful toxins. You have to weigh the benefits and dangers of eating fish to decide whether it is healthful for you.


All fish contain fatty acids that can improve heart health. Fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and shellfish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are lacking in many diets. Our bodies can't make omega-3 fats, and eating fish can restore the balance in our bodies, preventing such diseases as cancer and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating seafood at least twice a week.


Most of us don't realize we have omega-3 deficiency because we don't notice the effects as symptoms. Lack of omega-3 can cause brittle nails and hair, dry skin, constipation, colds, depression, joint pain, fatigue and inability to concentrate. Vitamin D deficiency, which has increased because of less exposure to sunlight, can lead to breast and prostate cancer, juvenile onset diabetes and fractures from osteoporosis.


Eating fish raises HDL cholesterol levels, which some nutritionists believe helps remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from the body. It lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease by lowering blood pressure, lowering a form of fat in the blood called triglycerides, acting as a blood thinner and stabilizing your heartbeat. Eating fish prevents breast and colon cancer, loss of eyesight from macular degeneration, and symptoms of autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Mental health and depression are improved by eating fish and the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease is lower.


Pollution has contaminated many fish, especially the larger ones, with mercury. States issue warnings about mercury levels in fish that let you know how much fish you can safely eat. It takes a long time for your body to get rid of toxins, but most adults aren't affected by mercury. But methyl mercury is dangerous for young children and unborn babies because it affects the development of the brain and nervous system. Pregnant and nursing women and children under 12 have to limit the amount of fish they eat, but can safely eat fish such as salmon, shrimp and light canned tuna that usually have low levels of mercury.


In addition to choosing fish lower in toxins and higher in beneficial vitamins, minerals and fats, the key to making fish healthful is how you prepare it. Fried fish is delicious, but contains bad fats that remove the effects of the good fats. For the best benefits, season fish with healthy herbs and spices and broil, bake or grill the fish. You'll be amazed at how great it tastes and how it makes you feel.