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 Foods: Seafood 
 
Fish are really one of our most ideal foods. Seafood offers a good protein balance to a primarily vegetarian diet. I have eaten fresh ocean fish at least weekly over most of the last decade after many years of a completely vegetarian diet. Because I lived close to the ocean, I felt it natural to include it in my diet in moderation. And my body certainly felt a difference.

Fish is a very good quality protein, easily usable by our body, and a complete protein? that is, it contains all our essential amino acids. It is also low in fats, and the fat that is present in fish is very helpful. In fact, recent evidence suggests that the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexacnoic acid (DHA) that are contained in many fish help to lower blood cholesterol and protect us from hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. EPA and DHA also seem to reduce platelet stickiness, which then reduces clotting potential and increases clotting time. This effect then decreases the likelihood of arterial thrombosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

This information comes from an investigation of the reason why peoples in certain fishing villages in Japan and Alaska who eat a very high-fat diet, consisting mainly of fish oils and fats from animals who eat fish, had a very low incidence of heart disease. This seemed contrary to our knowledge that fat was tied into high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Yet the fish that these villagers eat are very high in EPA and DHA and, further, these fatty acids have a different and possibly opposite effect from that of other animal fats. Many of the fish that contain EPA and DHA also contain cholesterol, though shrimp and lobster are the highest, but this cholesterol does not seem to be a problem when accompanied by these helpful fats. With further investigation, we are finding that some of those fats in fish that we thought were cholesterol are probably beneficial oils.

Examples of fish that are high in these special lipid-lowering fats, EPA and DHA, are salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and haddock. It is now suggested that eating these fish two or three times a week may help protect us from cardiovascular disease. A popular trend supported by both doctors and the vitamin industry is to supplement the diet with EPA and DHA oils in a dose of about 3 grams fish oil per Day (e.g., 3 grams salmon oil may contain about 350-700 ma. EPA and 250-500 ma. DHA). This will help to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially if they are elevated, and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

Fish are also fairly low in fat, containing about 5-10 percent, in comparison to red meats, which are usually between 30 and 40 percent. And, as we just discussed, the types of fat present in fish are more health promoting than disease causing, unlike the saturated fats. Furthermore, besides being relatively low in calories, seafood is very rich in vitamins and minerals. The first few times I ate fish after five or six years of being a lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, and raw fooder, I could feel my body absorb and utilize this concentrated nourishment like a dry sponge soaking up water droplets. It was like the increased efficiency of food utilization after a period of fasting.

Fish liver is especially high in vitamins A and D. Cod liver oil is a common old-time supplement used mainly to obtain these two important fat-soluble vitamins. Most seafood contains some B vitamins, though usually in low amounts, but biotin, niacin, B6, and especially vitamin Bl2 are often found in higher amounts in nutritious fish such as salmon, halibut, herring, mackerel, crab, and oysters. Vitamin E is found in some of the oilier fishes, such as mackerel and herring.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
 
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