Seafood is very healthy to eat – all things considered. Fish and shellfish are an important source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and they are low in saturated fat. But seafood’s claim to fame is its omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), all of which are beneficial to health. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly suggest that adults eat two servings of seafood, or a total of eight ounces, per week.
Omega-3s are today’s darling of the nutrition world, and many observational studies have indeed shown them to benefit a range of conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, asthma, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. However, there isn’t complete scientific agreement on the health benefits of omega-3s, especially when considering the lack of strong evidence from randomized clinical trials.
The strongest evidence exists for a cardiovascular health benefit, and from consuming seafood (not just fish oil), which is significant because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
One of the things I research is Americans’ meat and protein consumption. Though many of us are concerned about getting enough protein, most Americans actually get more than enough protein in their diets. Rather, the problem is that most of us don’t include enough variety of protein sources in our diet. We eat a lot of poultry and red meat but not as much seafood, nuts, beans, peas, and seeds. For seafood in particular, consumption is estimated to be closer to 2.7 ounces of seafood per week per person, well below the recommended eight ounces.
USDA Economic Research Service
So the solution might seem simple: Increase public health messaging along the lines of: “Seafood is healthy. Eat more of it.” But it’s a bit more complicated than that.