Seafood – in particular fish – has long been regarded as a staple part of a balanced diet, offering several health benefits. Despite its popularity many people do not know the full detail of these benefits or any information about the potentially negative impact of seafood on health. If people are aware of the potential risks, it is not always clear how that risk comes about and whether the risk is great enough to eliminate seafood from the diet.
Benefits of Eating Seafood
Some of the health benefits of Seafood are very well known, for instance amongst the health world it is common knowledge that the fat content, but the good fats – or the essential fats as they are known – are very prevalent. These essential fats – Omega-3s – are found in most fish, especially oily fish, and are an essential building block of the brain. The calorie content is also very low, which makes seafood very popular amongst the diet community. Another health benefit is that due to the low levels of saturated fat, seafood Is low in cholesterol, which is of course a very big concern for many people and a contributing factor in heart disease. Seafood is also high in protein and contains a high number of vitamins and minerals, including; zinc, iodine and B group vitamins – both of these benefits mean seafood is often part of an athletic diet, for those with high energy expenditures looking to replenish and repair the muscle, Sir Andy Murray, Britain’s most successful tennis player in the open era is known to eat fifty pieces of sushi every day due to the high demands of his tennis training.
Seafood has such a good reputation amongst the health world that government and health organisations recommend eating seafood twice a week in order to benefit from all of the healthy factors previously mentioned. However, there are known risks to eating too much seafood, and the risks are great enough for people to switch off from eating seafood altogether. The question that many people have to consider is whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Potential Risks Associated with Seafood
One of the most common risks associated with eating Seafood is the consumption of mercury – due to human’s negative impact on oceans the levels of mercury are increasing within fish, largely because of toxins and environmental pollutants entering the oceans. This risk is greater when consuming fish that prey on other fish, as these larger fish, such as Shark and Swordfish, ingest mercury themselves and the mercury from the fish they eat, making it very prevalent in these fish. As mercury can have a negative impact on the developing nervous system, there is the fear the high levels could jeopardize the development of the brain in a foetus and young infants, which is why the NHS advised pregnant and nursing mothers to only eat low levels of oily fish such as salmon and to restrict their tuna intake to no more than four cans per week. It is clear that there are risks associated with eating seafood, however as long as the fish is cooked properly and consumption is within recommended levels, the health benefits outweigh the risks and seafood can be part of a healthy and balanced diet.