Previous research by university experts also suggests that a proper lifestyle – increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and fighting obesity – reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in large quantities in fish, seeds, nuts, and certain types of oils, also contribute to this.
If you don’t like seafood, then you might think that you can really get the same benefits just by drinking a pill of fish oil. Last year, AHA released a scientific guide on this topic, which recommended supplements with omega-3s for people who have had a heart attack or have a diagnosis of heart failure. As for everyone else, experts did not find convincing data proving the benefits of taking fish oil for the prevention of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
The benefits of fish are partly related to the content of omega-3 fatty acids, but may also be due to the choice of fish instead of foods that are high in saturated fats, such as steak. But just taking supplements is not the same as leading a healthy lifestyle.
Scientists came to such conclusions during an experiment involving 260 people. It was found that participants who at least once a week consumed baked or fried fish had more gray matter in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. It is interesting that among the fish menu lovers there were more people with higher education. But scientists failed to find a connection between the level of omega-3 fatty acids and the development of these parts of the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in large quantities in many types of seafood, are very beneficial for the heart. Omega-3s reduce inflammation, help prevent heart rhythm disturbances, improve arterial flexibility, and help lower cholesterol.
After analyzing the data of numerous studies studying the positive effect of omega-3 on the cardiovascular system, the following conclusions can be found:
- Those who ate one oily fish per week had a 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
- People who ate one serving of fish per week had a 14 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke caused by the formation of blood clots in the brain than those who ate little or no fish at all.
- Those who consumed seafood four or more times a week had a 22% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who ate fish less than once a month.
The more fish, the better?
Perhaps going beyond the recommended one or two servings per week may provide additional health benefits, but this is not scientifically proven.
Based on the available data, the scientists concluded that most of the benefit lies in switching from consuming very small amounts of fish or not having them in the diet to consuming fish once or twice a week. But if the fish is consumed four or more times a week as a substitute for other less healthy foods, in this case it can be said – the more, the better.
Choose low-mercury fish
One of the drawbacks of increasing the amount of fish in the diet is the potential exposure to mercury, a toxin that can affect brain development in fetuses and young children, and in excess can adversely affect adult health. At the same time, women of childbearing age (especially pregnant or breastfeeding) and children are advised to eat fish to get omega-3s that support brain growth and enhance heart health.
To prevent the benefits from becoming harmful, you just need to remember which fish are low in mercury. A large amount of mercury in fish carries a high neurological risk – from mental haze to tremors and loss of balance.
Low amounts of mercury and a lot of omega-3s are found in the following fish species:
- Atlantic mackerel.
Although other low-mercury fish (catfish, flounder and salt, as well as shrimp and tilapia) do not contain so much omega-3, they are still considered beneficial. As for tuna, the most popular type of seafood along with shrimp, experts note that pregnant women should not eat it at all in analyzing the level of mercury in tuna. Everyone else should choose a diet tuna (chunk light), which contains a third of the albacore mercury and about one fifth of the mercury in the tuna used to make sushi (for example, big-eye tuna). And do not make tuna the only kind of seafood in your diet.
Finally, I want to say – do not be afraid of oily fish! A common mistake made by many people trying to lose weight is to refuse all fats. A healthy dose of the right type of fat is what everyone needs. And fish, as you know, is an excellent source of healthy fats.