Should we be fishing around for a healthier feed in order to have a longer and healthier life? Emma Bangay dives in to find out more about a seafood diet and its benefits.
It is well-known that the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancies and this is partly attributed to their diet dense in fish and seaweed. Marine Scientist and a world-leading expert on the therapeutic uses of marine extracts, John Croft, explains that this way of eating has long been a source of study for nutritionists and health experts looking for ways to increase life expectancy through diet.
“The sea offers great potential for future treatment, and also possible prevention of the expanding number of diseases and disorders now afflicting us,” he says.
The average Japanese person eats up to 70kg of fish per year, but a more realistic recommendation is to pay attention to the quality, not just the quantity advises John.
"The recommended weekly amount of seafood varies depending on the different types we eat," he says. "It's good to eat a variety of fish but you should eat more fish lower in mercury, such as anchovies, salmon, oysters and shrimp and less of those high in mercury including tuna, sea bass and swordfish," he explains.
Which Seafood Should You Choose?
Salmon is low-fat, high-protein and contains healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids that help maintain a healthy heart and aid in the functioning of the brain and nervous system.
"Mussels contain healthy levels of Vitamins B12 and C, plus glycogen, essential fatty acids, chondroitin sulphate and important proteins. The green-lipped variety from New Zealand provides specific natural components that have been shown to help maintain joint mobility," John says. "These mussels have been used to create green lipped mussel extract, which may help relieve the symptoms of mild osteoarthritis and rheumatism."
These are an excellent low-fat source of protein and contain calcium, potassium, omega-3 and vitamins A and B. "Not only does your body need omega-3 fatty acids to function, but they also deliver some big health benefits such as reducing inflammation," John explains. "Studies have also found that they may contribute to reducing your risk of heart disease and arthritis."
Low in fat and high in protein, oysters are brimming with healthy nutrients such as the antioxidant selenium, immune-boosting zinc, energising iron and B vitamins, plus magnesium for healthy muscle and nerve function. "They’re also a source of vitamin D, which is important for bone health as well as helping reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure," says John.
Scallops are a source of vitamin B12, which supports mood and energy levels and is important for cognitive health. "It also helps reduce levels of a chemical called homocysteine," John explains. "[Scallop's] iodine content plays a significant role in thyroid health and, in turn, metabolism."
Seaweed is considered to be one of the most wholesome vegetables in the world, as it's high in protein, fibre and minerals. One seaweed, in particular, Undaria pinnatifida (Wakame in Japan), has some really valuable nutritional and therapeutic properties.
Derived from kelp seaweed, kelp powder is a rich natural source of iodine. Iodine deficiency is very common in women. John notes that it is available in a powder form which can be found at your local health food store, and tastes excellent sprinkled on top of foods like rice.
Regarding protein and minerals, tinned tuna does contain these, John assures. However, he says the tuna should also supply the omega three fatty acids. "If it has not been carefully handled and processed these may have been oxidised and of little or no value. I think that buying [tinned tuna] by reliable brand and reading the label carefully is important.”