Fish and Shellfish: How Food Affects Health

Fruits of the sea, like fish and shellfish, are some of the best choices of lean protein available — as long as you don’t fry them or drown them in butter!

Fish and shellfish are both great sources of lean protein. Protein helps fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied, which in turn aids your weight-loss goals by making you less likely to snack on high-calorie fallback foods between meals. Protein also helps keep blood-sugar levels steady, which improves mood and protects against type 2 diabetes.

Some fish and shellfish are high in vitamins and minerals like selenium, vitamin B12, niacin, iron, and zinc. The selenium in seafood is an antioxidant that can help manage arthritis and maintain healthy skin, while vitamin B12 may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow memory decline. Niacin is a B vitamin that may aid in cataract prevention. Iron-rich clams, oysters, and shrimp can help maintain healthy hair. The zinc in oysters and crab can also contribute to healthy hair and beautiful skin, while reducing the risk of macular degeneration.

Some shellfish are high in dietary cholesterol and therefore should be eaten in moderation by individuals with elevated LDL-cholesterol levels (if you have high cholesterol, speak with your physician about how much you should be eating).

Fish that is cured, smoked, canned, or pickled is typically high in sodium and should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. And if you suffer from migraines, be aware that these same fish varieties, which include anchovies, caviar, lox, pickled herring, and sardines, are also potential migraine triggers.