Fish is among the healthiest foods on the planet.
It’s loaded with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D.
Fish is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain.
Here are 11 health benefits of eating fish that are supported by research.
Fish is packed with many nutrients that most people are lacking.
This includes high-quality protein, iodine, and various vitamins and minerals.
Fatty species are sometimes considered the healthiest. That’s because fatty fish, including salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, and mackerel, are higher in fat-based nutrients.
This includes vitamin D, a fat-soluble nutrient that many people are lacking.
Fatty fish also boast omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for optimal body and brain function and strongly linked to a reduced risk of many diseases (1).
To meet your omega-3 requirements, eating fatty fish at least once or twice a week is recommended. If you are a vegan, opt for omega-3 supplements made from microalgae.
SUMMARYFish is high in many important nutrients, including high-quality protein, iodine, and various vitamins and minerals. Fatty varieties also pack omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
Heart attacks and strokes are the two most common causes of premature death in the world (2Trusted Source).
Fish is considered one of the most heart-healthy foods you can eat.
Unsurprisingly, many large observational studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart disease (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
In one study in more than 40,000 men in the United States, those who regularly ate one or more servings of fish per week had a 15% lower risk of heart disease (7Trusted Source).
Researchers believe that fatty types of fish are even more beneficial for heart health due to their high omega-3 fatty acid content.
SUMMARYEating at least one serving of fish per week has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for growth and development.
The omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is especially important for brain and eye development (8Trusted Source).
For this reason, it’s often recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat enough omega-3 fatty acids (9Trusted Source).
However, some fish are high in mercury, which is linked to brain developmental problems.
Thus, pregnant women should only eat low-mercury fish, such as salmon, sardines, and trout, and no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) per week.
They should also avoid raw and uncooked fish because it may contain microorganisms that can harm the fetus.
SUMMARYFish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for brain and eye development. It’s recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women get enough omega-3s but avoid high-mercury fish.
Your brain function often declines with aging.
While mild mental decline is normal, serious neurodegenerative ailments like Alzheimer’s disease also exist.
Many observational studies show that people who eat more fish have slower rates of mental decline (10Trusted Source).
Studies also reveal that people who eat fish every week have more gray matter — your brain’s major functional tissue — in the parts of the brain that regulate emotion and memory (11Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFish intake is linked to reduced mental decline in older adults. People who eat fish regularly also have more gray matter in the brain centers that control memory and emotion.
Depression is a common mental condition.
It’s characterized by low mood, sadness, decreased energy, and loss of interest in life and activities.
Although it isn’t discussed nearly as much as heart disease or obesity, depression is currently one of the world’s biggest health problems.
Studies have found that people who eat fish regularly are much less likely to become depressed (12Trusted Source).
Numerous controlled trials also reveal that omega-3 fatty acids may fight depression and significantly increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Fish and omega-3 fatty acids may also aid other mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder (16Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 fatty acids may combat depression both on their own and when taken with antidepressant medications.
Vitamin D functions like a steroid hormone in your body — and a whopping 41.6% of the U.S. population is deficient or low in it (17Trusted Source).
Fish and fish products are among the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Fatty fish like salmon and herring contain the highest amounts (18Trusted Source).
A single 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of cooked salmon packs around 100% of the recommended intake of vitamin D.
Some fish oils, such as cod liver oil, are also very high in vitamin D, providing more than 200% of the Daily Value (DV) in a single tablespoon (15 ml).
If you don’t get much sun and don’t eat fatty fish regularly, you may want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
SUMMARYFatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D, an important nutrient in which over 40% of people in the United States may be deficient.
Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissues.
Several studies link omega-3 or fish oil intake to a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes in children, as well as a form of autoimmune diabetes in adults (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
The omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in fish and fish oils may be responsible.
Some experts believe that fish intake may also lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, but the current evidence is weak at best (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
SUMMARYEating fish has been linked to a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes and several other autoimmune conditions.
Asthma is a common disease characterized by chronic inflammation of your airways.
Rates of this condition have increased dramatically over the past few decades (24Trusted Source).
Studies show that regular fish consumption is linked to a 24% lower risk of asthma in children, but no significant effect has been found in adults (25Trusted Source).
SUMMARYSome studies show that children who eat more fish have a lower risk of asthma.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness that mostly affects older adults (26Trusted Source).
Some evidence suggests that fish and omega-3 fatty acids may protect against this disease.
In one study, regular fish intake was linked to a 42% lower risk of AMD in women (27Trusted Source).
Another study found that eating fatty fish once per week was linked to a 53% decreased risk of neovascular (“wet”) AMD (28Trusted Source).
SUMMARYPeople who eat more fish have a much lower risk of AMD, a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness.
Sleep disorders have become incredibly common worldwide.
Increased exposure to blue light may play a role, but some researchers believe that vitamin D deficiency may also be involved (29Trusted Source).
In a 6-month study in 95 middle-aged men, a meal with salmon 3 times per week led to improvements in both sleep and daily functioning (30Trusted Source).
The researchers speculated that this was caused by the vitamin D content.
SUMMARYPreliminary evidence indicates that eating fatty fish like salmon may improve your sleep.
Fish is delicious and easy to prepare.
For this reason, it should be relatively easy to incorporate it into your diet. Eating fish one or two times per week is considered sufficient to reap its benefits.
If possible, choose wild-caught fish rather than farmed. Wild fish tends to have more omega-3s and is less likely to be contaminated with harmful pollutants.
Salmon can be prepared baked, fried, seared, or boiled. It pairs well with a multitude of vegetables and grains.
SUMMARYYou can prepare fish in a number of ways, including baked and fried. If you’re able, select wild-caught varieties over farmed ones.
Fish is a wonderful source of high-quality protein. Fatty species also pack heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
What’s more, it has numerous benefits, including vision protection and improved mental health in old age.
What’s more, fish is easy to prepare, so you can add it to your diet today.