Seafood is lifesaving. According to a Harvard study, eating 8 ounces of seafood each week reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36%. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women worldwide. Heart disease and stroke cause 30 percent of all deaths globally, and 800,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Seafood is a nutrient-rich food, high in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, yet only 1 in 5 Americans eat seafood twice per week, as recommended by the USDA. Eating 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week when pregnant can improve a baby’s IQ, cognitive development, and eye health. Older adults with high fish consumption live an average of 2.2 years longer.
Those struggling to feed their families face the burden of not only getting enough to eat, but also accessing nutrient-rich foods that promote good health and help reduce the risk of chronic disease. Seafood is a high-quality protein that contains essential vitamins and minerals. SeaShare exists to provide food banks and feeding centers access to nutritious seafood.
How do the vitamins and minerals in seafood affect your body?
Seafood provides essential nutrients to the body. These include vitamins A, B, and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is also rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, selenium, and potassium. Vitamin A helps protect vision and boost immune systems. B-complex vitamins influence energy production, metabolism, and concentration. Seafood is one of the only food sources of Vitamin D, which promotes healthy bone growth, calcium absorption, and boosts immune system efficiency and cell growth.
Two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Our bodies don't produce omega-3 fatty acids so we must get them through the food we eat. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in every kind of fish, but are especially high in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, and oysters. A study funded by CDC of 12 modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors in the United States found that eating seafood for essential omega-3 fatty acids can prevent 84,000 deaths each year.
The omega-3 fatty acids present in seafood have myriad health benefits:
- Helps maintain a healthy heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of sudden death, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes.
- Aids healthy brain function and infant development of vision and nerves during pregnancy.
- May decrease the risk of depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
- May reduce the chance of developing diabetes and the metabolic syndrome that precedes it. Evidence suggests that higher consumption of omega-3s or fatty fish may also have a positive effect on glucose and insulin metabolism. These fatty acids also tone down the inflammatory processes that contribute to diabetes.
- May prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of arthritis.
- Seafood makes you smarter. People who eat fish frequently shown to have 14% larger brain hippocampus - the big memory and learning center.
Seafood Nutrition in Pregnancy and Infancy
Pregnancy increases the need for nearly all nutrients, but some nutrients must be available at specific times for the baby’s optimal development. Several of these are most abundant in fish—selenium and iodine, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which occurs almost exclusively in fish. These nutrients, along with other long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and arachidonic acid) are critical for the development of the baby’s organs, especially the brain and eyes.
Eating foods rich in DHA is especially important in the last three months of pregnancy and for the baby’s first two years while the brain is developing. After that, the rate of brain and eye growth slows, but the need for DHA continues throughout childhood.
Babies who obtain DHA from breast milk or DHA supplemented infant formula may score better on developmental and visual tests compared with infants fed formula without DHA. They also have more mature nervous systems. Some studies suggest that children who are well nourished in DHA are better able to learn and less likely to develop learning or behavioral abnormalities compared with children who have consumed little DHA.