Fats play an essential role in human health from head (brain) to toe (joints), and every cell in between, according to Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD. Fats also help us feel full and ensure healthy communication between nerve impulses and the transfer of nutrients through the bloodstream. But not all fats are these “good fats.”
Embrace unsaturated fats found in foods such as walnuts, seeds, plant oils, avocados, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring. In particular, seafood is a good-fat food that supplies the best source of essential omega-3s DHA and EPA, which are polyunsaturated fatty acids that may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. They are essential because your body can’t make them.
Seafood & Healthy Fats
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we shift from a diet high in saturated fats (like those found in meat) to a diet rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats (like those found in seafood, walnuts and avocados). For seafood lovers, that’s no problem! To keep it simple, incorporate a variety of seafood into your meal plan – striving for at least 2-3 servings per week to help ensure that you are meeting your needs for heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. There are so many choices with seafood that you will never get bored – and you may find another favorite fish.
Top 5 Reasons to Be on #TeamGoodFat
To combat body fat and live a longer, healthier life, you have to eat fat – the right kind of fat.
- Small Changes Save Lives: Replacing just 5 percent of your caloric intake from so-called bad fats (like trans and saturated fat found in red meat and lard) with unsaturated fat from seafood and plant-based foods can reduce your risk of death by 27 percent.
- Another Study Shows the Mediterranean Diet May Save Your Life: Research from the landmark PREDIMED study, one of the largest clinical trials, found that consuming omega-3s from both plant-based sources, such as walnuts, and fish and shellfish have the greatest protective effects from all causes of mortality. It seems the plant-based and marine-derived omega-3s appear to act synergistically.
- Burn Fat Faster: Research in a Millennial population (ages 18-35) exhibited regularly eating foods that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids – including salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil and fish oil supplements – may significantly improve fat metabolism and lower cholesterol.
- Brain Boosting: Omega-3s EPA and DHA found in seafood quite literally provide the building blocks and functionality of your brain. In fact, people with low levels of DHA have measurably smaller brains! But there are additional brain-boosting foods, too: Avocado is a good source of both vitamin K and folate, known to prevent blood clots in the brain and improve both memory and concentration. The antioxidants found in walnuts may help fight age-related cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Be Happy: People who regularly consume a Mediterranean Diet are 40 percent less likely than their peers to have depression, and fish consumption specifically showed people were 20 percent less likely to have depression.
- Bazilian W. 8 Easy Ways to Replace Saturated Fats with Unsaturated Fats.
- Wang D, et al. Association of Specific Dietary Fats With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1134-1145.
- Sala-Vila A, et al. Dietary α-Linolenic Acid, Marine ω-3 Fatty Acids, and Mortality in a Population With High Fish Consumption: Findings From the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(1):e002543.
- Stevenson JL, et al. A PUFA-rich diet improves fat oxidation following saturated fat-rich meal. Eur J Nutr. 2017;56(5):1845-1857.
- Tan ZS, et al. Red blood cell ω-3 fatty acid levels and markers of accelerated brain aging. Neurology. 2012 Feb 28;78(9):658-64.
- Psaltopoulou T, et al. Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Ann Neurol. 2013 Oct;74(4):580-91
- Li F, et al. Fish consumption and risk of depression: a meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016 Mar;70(3):299-304.