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Healing Foods Pyramid

Healing Foods Pyramid™


Fish & Seafood Image

Fish & Seafood is included in the Healing Foods Pyramid™ as part of a balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet. This Food Pyramid emphasizes foods that nourish the body, sustain energy over time, contain healing qualities and essential nutrients, and support a sustainable environment.

What are the recommended servings of fish & seafood?

*The Healing Foods Pyramid™ is suitable for vegetarians and vegans in that all of the categories containing animal products are optional for consumption. One of our goals is to shift the typical meat-centered plate to one that is comprised mostly of plant-based foods. Every individual’s needs are unique. While some bodies thrive on a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, others may not. Animal products provide the richest sources of absorbable vitamin B12, iron, and calcium; therefore individuals choosing not to consume animal products need to ensure adequate intake of these essential nutrients.  Consult with a registered dietitian/certified nutritionist or knowledgeable health care provider regarding your individual needs.

Why should you choose fish & seafood?

Specific Considerations

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). They are an essential component of the human diet because our bodies cannot make them. These fats are necessary for proper brain growth and development. Omega-3s are most abundant in deep-water fatty fish and some plant foods. They have anti-inflammatory effects on the body and may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of numerous conditions.

Which fish should you eat to get the greatest benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acid content varies greatly among different species of fish. Cold-water fatty fish have the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids because their physiology, environment and diet promote omega-3 fatty acid production in their flesh.
All fish contain some amount of omega-3s, however quantities vary among species and within a species according to the same factors mentioned above, i.e. environment and diet.

What is the daily recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids?

There are currently no established guidelines regarding optimal omega-3 intake. According to the Institute of Medicine, the Adequate Intake (AI) is 1.1g daily for women and 1.6 g daily for men, although some experts believe that these recommendations might be too low to obtain the health benefits associated with omega-3s. Research shows benefits associated with higher intake of 2-3 g or more per day.

Selected Food Sources with Serving Size*

Common Finfish

Omega-3 Content

Omega-3 Content(per 6 oz portion)

Anchovy, European, canned in oil

High

3.4 g

Wild Salmon

High

3.2 g

Pacific and Jack mackerel

High

3.2 g

Sable Fish (Black Cod)

High

3.0 g

Whitefish

High

3.0 g

Pacific sardine

High

2.8 g

Bluefin tuna

High

2.8 g

Atlantic herring

High

2.4 g

Atlantic mackerel

High

2.0 g

Rainbow trout

High

2.0 g

Mussels

Moderate

1.4 g

Tuna, White Albacore, canned in water

Moderate

1.4 g

Wild Eastern Oyster

Moderate

1.0

Halibut

Moderate

1.0 g

Pollock

Moderate

0.8 g

Farmed Eastern Oyster

Moderate

0.8 g

Blue Crab or Alaska King Crab

Moderate

0.8 g

Shrimp

Moderate

0.6 g

Scallop

Moderate

0.6 g

Clam

Low

0.5 g

Ocean Perch

Low

0.4 g

Tuna, light, canned in water

Low

0.4 g

Yellowfin tuna

Low

0.4 g

Cod

Low

.4 g

Lobster

Low

0.2 g

Crayfish

Low

0.2 g

Note: We recommend eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice per week

* Omega-3 content of various fish and seafood sources are averages and may depend on factors such as time of year of harvest, body of water in which the animal resides and its diet.  Values should be used for comparison of relative amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood.

Why is the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio important?

Two types of fatty acids that are essential for human health are omega-3 and omega-6. These are both polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which have anti-inflammatory properties, contribute to cell structure and optimal bodily functioning. Studies suggest that decreasing the ratio of omega-6 (in vegetable oils) to omega-3 fatty acids (in fatty fish) is important to reduce risk of cancer and heart disease, inflammatory conditions, asthma, and depression.

Most people consume too many omega-6 fatty acids and consume too little omega-3 fatty acids. To reduce your risk of chronic disease, reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. An intake of around 2-4 times as many omega-6 fatty acids as omega-3 fatty acids is thought to be a healthy ratio.

Calcium

Know Your Limits for Fat

Potential Chemical Contaminants

Risk of Mercury Poisoning

Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can accumulate in fish.  Eating fish with high levels of mercury can negatively impact brain development in children and can affect learning and memory function in adults. Certain fish species are known to have higher mercury concentrations than others, sometimes due to polluted waters. The highest levels of mercury and contaminants tend to accumulate in the large predatory fish at the top of the food chain.

Avoid in pregnancy and in young children*

Limit intake in children as well as pregnant and nursing women** 

Low levels of mercury-containing fish**

Risk of PCB Exposure

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are industrial pollutants that find their way into fresh waters and oceans where they are absorbed by fish. A recent study reported unacceptable levels of PCBs in fish feed given to farmed salmon. The study reported that PCB levels in farmed salmon, especially those in Europe, were about seven times higher than in wild salmon. PCBs are potential human carcinogens, known to promote cancer in animals. Other potential health effects include impaired memory and learning, and adverse effects on the immune, reproductive and nervous systems. Until more research results are available, it may be prudent to choose wild salmon over farmed salmon and eat a wide variety of fish, along with plant sources of omega-3s. You can reduce PCB exposure from fish by removing the skin and visible fat as well as baking, broiling or grilling fish instead of frying. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors PCB levels in water throughout the country more information can be found at the EPA website.

Farmed vs. Wild

The old adage “you are what you eat” applies even if you are a fish. The location and living conditions where fish and seafood live can affect what they eat and their exposure to chemicals. In some studies, farm-raised fish have been shown to contain higher levels of contaminants compared to fish caught from the wild. However, there are some ethical fish farms that take good care of their fish and limit contaminant exposure.  Recommendations have not yet been established for farmed vs. wild. To better understand this issue asks questions when buying fish and seafood. For more information on “ocean friendly” seafood choices check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. This site ranks fish as red, yellow, or green depending on sustainability and identifies high mercury fish.

Choosing Fish & Seafood

Ideas for Increasing Consumption of High Omega-3 Fish

  1. Try the catch of the day! Order a variety of fish to broaden your horizons.
  2. Experiment with fish recipes to replace red meat and other high fat choices. There are several fish that are good for kabobs, patties, and noodle dishes.
  3. Look for wild salmon at your local health food stores.
  4. Mix canned sardines with your own combination of chopped red onion, avocado, hard-cooked eggs, lemon juice, salt and/or pepper.
  5. Add chopped anchovies to pasta sauce just after you sauté your onions and garlic; the fish will melt away while leaving a mild, subtle fishy taste to your sauce.
  6. When buying canned products, look for fish packed in water or olive oil (preferably, extra-virgin).
  7. Cook with either dry or moist heat methods; poached, steamed, grilled, baked, or broiled are preferred.
  8. Avoid fish that is battered and fried, slathered in butter, or blanketed in creamy sauces to reduce saturated fat and calorie intake.
  9. Remove skin and outer layer of fat before cooking fish, as contaminants can be concentrated in these areas.

 

Resources

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
American Heart Association
www.americanheart.org
Accessed August 5, 2009

Fish, Levels of Mercury and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
American Heart Association
www.americanheart.org
Accessed August 5, 2009

National Listing of Fish Advisories
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
http://epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advisories/fs2004.pdf
Accessed August 5, 2009

Organic Food Standards and Labels:  The Facts
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
www.ams.usda.gov
Accessed August 5, 2009

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
www.epa.gov
Accessed August 5, 2009

A Primer on Fats and Oils
American Dietetic Association
www.eatright.org
Accessed August 5, 2009

Summary - PCBs in Farmed Salmon
Environmental Working Group
www.egw.org
Accessed August 5, 2009

Seafood Watch
Montery Bay Aquarium
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org
Accessed August 5, 2009

A Family Guide to Eating Fish
Michigan State Government
http://www.michigan.gov/
Accessed August 5, 2009


Original Research and Review Articles

Bayen S, et al.  Effect of cooking on the loss of persistent organic pollutants from salmon.  Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.  2005;68:253-265.

Calder PC, et al.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation and immunity.  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;56(suppl 3):s14-s19

Chapkin RS, et al. Dietary docosahexanoic and eicosapentaenoic acid: emerging mediators of inflammation. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, Essential Fatty Acids. 2009; doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2009.05.010.

De Caterina R, et al.  Nutritional mechanisms that influence cardiovascular diseaseAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 2006;83(suppl):421s-426s.

Fernandez E, et al.  Fish consumption and cancer riskAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;70:85-90.

Foran JA, et al.  Risk-based consumption advice for farmed Atlantic and wild Pacific salmon contaminated with dioxins and dioxin-like compoundsEnvironmental Health Perspectives. 2005;113(5):552-556.

Gochfeld M, et al.  Good fish/bad fish:  a composite benefit-risk by dose curveNeuroToxicology. 2005;26:511-520.

Hibbeln JR, et al. Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 83(suppl0:1483s-93s.

Hites RA, et al.  Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.  Science. 2004;303:226-229.

Kim J, et al. Fatty fish and fish omega-3 fatty acid intakes decrease the breast cancer risk: a case-control study. BMC Cancer. 2009; 9:216.

Kris-Etherton PM, et al.  Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease.   Circulation. 2002;106:2747-2757.

MacArtain P, et al. Nutritional Value of Edible Seaweeds. Nutrition Reviews. 2007;65 (12) 535-543.

Nestel PJ.  Fish oil and cardiovascular disease:  lipids and arterial functionAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;71(1):228-231.

Rees AM, et al. Omega-3 deficiency associated with perinatal depression: Case control study. Psychiatry Research. 2009; 166: 254-259.

Sabel KG, et al. Fatty acid patterns early after premature birth, simultaneously analyzed in mother’s food, breast milk, and serum phospholipids of mothers and infants. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2009; 8:20.

Simopoulos AP.  Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;70(suppl):560s-569s.

Simopoulos AP.  Human requirement for n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Poultry Science. 2000;79(7):961-970.

Smith KM, et al. Relationship between fish intake, n-3 fatty acids, mercury and risk markers of CHD (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002). Public Health Nutrition. 2008; 12(8): 1261-1269.

Sugawara Y, et al. Fish consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer: the Ohsaki Cohort Study. British Journal of Cancer. 2009; 101: 849-854.

Terry P, et al.  Fish consumption and breast cancer risk.  Nutrition and Cancer.  2002;44(1):1-6.

Terry PD, et al.  Intakes of fish and marine fatty acids and the risks of cancers of the breast and prostate and of other hormone-related cancers:  a review of the epidemiologic evidence.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  2003;77:532-543.

Valensi, P.  Hypertension, single sugars and fatty acids.  Journal of Human Hypertension.  2005;19:s5-s9.

The Healing Foods Pyramid™ was created by the Nutrition Education Team at the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in 2005 and updated in 2009.

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For questions and licensing information please call Dr. Sara Warber at 734-998-7120 x 260 or email umim-hfp@umich.edu.