There is growing medical evidence for the health benefits of seafood. Consuming 2-3 seafood meals per week is associated with lower prevalence of heart disease. It is also reported to have beneficial effects for many other diseases and medical conditions. 

 

The table below shows some of the health benefits associated with fish consumption and the level of supporting scientific evidence.

 

Disease or Health Condition

Strong Evidence of Significant Health Benefits

Promising Preliminary Results

Possible Health Benefits but requires more substantiation

Coronary heart disease

ü

   

High blood pressure

ü

   

Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)

ü

   

Diabetes

ü

   

Cancer

     

            Bowel Cancer

 

ü

 

            Laryngeal Cancer

   

ü

            Pancreatic Cancer

   

ü

Asthma

 

ü

 

Rheumatoid arthritis

ü

   

Central Nervous System

     

            Neural development

 

ü

 

            Memory

   

ü

Depression

   

ü

 

Source: What's so healthy about seafood (2004) Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, Canberra.

The reason seafood is so good for you is because of the OILS they contain. Oils play a vital role in the functioning of our bodies; they serve as a concentrated source of energy, as a fuel molecule and as a component of cell membranes. There are two main components that make up oils: the saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

There are a number of fatty acids. 

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid, 20:5, n-3),

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, 22:6, n-3), and

AA (arachidonic acid, 20:4, n-6)

EPA and DHA are OMEGA 3 POLY-UNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS and AA is an OMEGA 6 POLY-UNSATURATED FATTY ACID. 

Unlike other oils, our bodies only produce small amounts of poly-unsaturated essential fatty acids and as such we need to eat foods that contain them. Seafood is one of the highest know sources of Omega 3 (n-3) essential fatty acids. It also contains Omega 6 (n-6) essential fatty acids. Some other sources of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, soybeans, canola and purslane (plants are generally higher in Omega 6). 

So how does the Omega 3 oil levels in seafood compare to other meat sources? CSIRO has compilied the following comparison (all measurements are milligrams per 100g of meat (mg/100g)):

 

Fish

210

Oysters

150

Prawns

120

Lobster

105

Turkey

35

Beef

22

Chicken

19

Lamb

18

Pork

0

Veal

0

 

It is important to remember that getting the balance of Omega 3 and 6 oils right in the body is also important for good health! So to prevent deficiencies in essential fatty acids ensure that your diet has 2.4% of the total fat as omega 6 and 0.5-1.0% as omega 3 oils. Or alternatively just eat a wide variety of Australian seafood!

For South Australia fish species here's the good oil on our local fish:

 

 

Oil Content mg/100g

Seafood Product

EPA

DHA

AA

Omega 3 :omega 6 ratio

% Total oil

Callop

26

105

45

2.3

0.6

Southern garfish

22

109

22

3.6

0.7

Mullet (yellow eye/Coorong)

34

87

26

4.4

0.4

Western King prawns

58

47

66

1.5

0.8

Southern rocklobster

68

62

28

3.5

0.6

Gummy shark

29

219

34

4.8

0.9

Snapper

28

164

24

4.4

0.6

Australian herring (tommy ruff)

68

212

84

2.9

1.7

King George whiting

43

57

42

2.3

0.6

Source: Nichols, P.D. et al (1998) Seafood: the good food, Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, Canberra.

For more information about the health benefits of seafood you can download the following brochures "What's So Great About Seafood" and "What's So Healthy About Seafood" or visit Seafood Services Australia at www.seafood.net.au, CSIRO Health and Wellbeing section at www.csiro.gov.au/csiro/channel/ich2k.html or read the CSIRO brochures at www.csiro.gov.au/csiro/channel/pchg2.html or FRDC www.frdc.com.au

Please note this data provided by SAFIC is general information only. You should consult with your health care professional before making changes to your diet.