Fish and Shellfish: How Food Affects Health

Fruits of the sea, like fish and shellfish, are some of the best choices of lean protein available — as long as you don't fry them or drown them in butter!

Fish and shellfish are both great sources of lean protein. Protein helps fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied, which in turn aids your weight-loss goals by making you less likely to snack on high-calorie fallback foods between meals. Protein also helps keep blood-sugar levels steady, which improves mood and protects against type 2 diabetes.

Some fish and shellfish are high in vitamins and minerals like selenium, vitamin B12, niacin, iron, and zinc. The selenium in seafood is an antioxidant that can help manage arthritis and maintain healthy skin, while vitamin B12 may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow memory decline. Niacin is a B vitamin that may aid in cataract prevention. Iron-rich clams, oysters, and shrimp can help maintain healthy hair. The zinc in oysters and crab can also contribute to healthy hair and beautiful skin, while reducing the risk of macular degeneration.

Some shellfish are high in dietary cholesterol and therefore should be eaten in moderation by individuals with elevated LDL-cholesterol levels (if you have high cholesterol, speak with your physician about how much you should be eating).

Fish that is cured, smoked, canned, or pickled is typically high in sodium and should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. And if you suffer from migraines, be aware that these same fish varieties, which include anchovies, caviar, lox, pickled herring, and sardines, are also potential migraine triggers.


Catfish | Clams | Crabmeat | Flounder | Halibut | Scallops | Shrimp | Sole | Tilapia | Tuna

Catfish
Catfish is a mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish and is a terrific, low-calorie source of lean protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Protein found in catfish can also help moderate your mood by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping blood-sugar levels stable. (Note: Farmed US catfish is the most sustainable choice.)

Clams
Clams are low in calories and packed with quality protein, making them a good food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. B vitamins and iron, both found in clams, may also keep hair healthy and strong. Clams are relatively high in dietary cholesterol, so if you have high cholesterol, speak with your physician about how often you should be eating them.

Crabmeat
Crabmeat is low in calories and packed with quality protein, making it a good food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Crabmeat also contains selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that can help manage arthritis and preserve healthy skin, and zinc, a mineral that may prevent macular degeneration and maintain healthy hair. Crabmeat is relatively high in dietary cholesterol, so if you have high cholesterol, speak with your physician about how often you should be eating it.

Flounder
Flounder (also called fluke) is a mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish and is a terrific, low-calorie source of lean protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Protein found in flounder can also help moderate your mood by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping blood-sugar levels stable. To maintain the health benefits of flounder, bake, grill, or roast the fish rather than frying it. (Note: Pacific flounder is the most sustainable choice.)

Halibut
Halibut is a firm, white-fleshed fish and is a terrific, low-calorie source of lean protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Protein found in halibut can also help moderate your moodby slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping blood-sugar levels stable. To maintain the health benefits of halibut, bake, grill, or roast the fish rather than frying it. (Note: Pacific halibut is the most sustainable choice.)

Scallops
Scallops are low in calories and packed with quality protein, making them a good food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Scallops also contain selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that can help manage arthritis and maintain healthy skin, and magnesium, a mineral that may aid in blood-pressure control.

Shrimp
Shrimp is a type of shellfish that is low in calories and packed with quality protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Shrimp also contains selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that can help prevent and manage arthritis and maintain healthy skin, and vitamin B6, which may reduce symptoms of PMS. Shrimp is high in dietary cholesterol, so if you have high cholesterol, speak with your physician about how often you should be eating it.

Sole
Sole is a light, flaky, white-fleshed fish and is a terrific, low-calorie source of lean protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. Protein found in sole can also help moderate your mood by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping blood-sugar levels stable. To maintain the health benefits of sole, bake, grill, or roast the fish rather than frying it. (Note: Pacific sole is the most sustainable choice.)

Tilapia
Tilapia is a mild-flavored, white-fleshed fish and is a terrific, low-calorie source of lean protein, making it a great food to enjoy for weight loss or if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. The protein found in tilapia can also help moderate your mood by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping blood-sugar levels stable. To maintain the health benefits of tilapia, bake, grill, or roast the fish rather than frying it. (Note: US farmed is the most sustainable choice.)

Tuna
Tuna is a meaty fish (that’s why it’s often served as tuna steak) that is an excellent source of high-quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Despite its health benefits, most tuna species are high in mercury, and therefore tuna should be eaten only occasionally. When shopping for canned (or pouched) tuna, choose light tuna, which is lower in mercury than albacore/white tuna.