Written by: Lisa E Murray, RDN, LD
Traveling around the globe has exposed me to a wide variety of cultural cuisines. As a “bonafide foodie”, I can find something wonderful about each and every one. I am truly happy to live in America where we have so many advantages, and such a high quality of life in comparison to many other parts of the world. But as integrative practitioners, we know that one of our own cultural disadvantages is the Standard American Diet, which is truly “SAD” indeed. What makes it so sad, is that our cultural cuisine does not support healthy aging, and in fact, as most of us are aware, it has created a wide variety of health problems instead. It’s interesting to note that in one source for “World Ranking of Life Expectancy for 2015″, the US ranks 53rd! Being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, how can that be?
Most of the countries ranking in that top 10, have something interesting in common…..and that something is the ocean, coastal proximity and….you guessed it…..FISH! Is this the secret to healthy longevity? Japan, Singapore, Macau (China), Hong Kong, Monaco, Guernsey, San Marino and Italy are coastal or island countries, with fish featuring prominently in their diets. We have all come to understand the importance of Omega-3’s to our health……but are we really giving it the importance it deserves?
Fish is truly one of the most powerful therapeutic and antiaging foods. I have witnessed the transformational healing power of a therapeutic diet including fish and cooked greens on a daily basis. A diet rich in fish, vegetables and berries is powerfully anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing, lipid balancing and supports healthy aging in a wide variety of ways that we know about, and probably many more we don’t know yet.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2007, concluded that in the elderly, a diet high in fish and fish products is associated with better cognitive performance in a dose-dependent manner. Maximum effect was observed at an average intake of ≈75 g/d (or 2.5 oz/day). And guess what? Nothing has changed! The OmegAD Study, published this month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseases3, shows a positive dose-response relationship between plasma levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and preservation of cognition. Advancements in our studies of antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanidins and all the other beneficial phytochemicals still doesn’t change the basic fact that fish is one of nature’s premier anti-aging foods.
Each ounce of salmon contains roughly 500 mg of Omega-3. Most of us would consume a 4oz portion yielding about 2000mg of Omega-3. Unfortunately the issue of mercury contamination cannot be ignored, and the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” published in 2011 underscores this by recommending consuming only up to 12 oz. of seafood per week. The Environmental Working Group website4 is a good source for up to date information on fish safety. Salmon, mussels, rainbow trout, mackerel and sardines top the list for being the highest in Omega-3s and lowest in mercury, so don’t be afraid to recommend consuming 4oz of wild caught Salmon, three times a week! When that may be impractical, we can still get the Omega-3s we need every single day from supplements. So whether or not you like fish, live in Alaska or Iowa, are Paleo or Vegan, we all have the opportunity to reap most of the benefits of Omega-3s, even if we don’t buy fresh fish and cook it at home!
Geoba.SE, Top 100 Rankings, The World: Life Expectancy 2015, Web. October 6, 2015; http://www.geoba.se/population.php?pc=world&type=15
Nurk E, Drevon CA, Refsum H, et al. Cognitive performance among the elderly and dietary fish intake: the Hordaland Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 86: 1470–8.
Eriksdotter M, Vedin I, Falahati F “Plasma fatty acid profiles in relation to cognition and gender in Alzheimer’s Disease patients during oral Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplementation: The OmegAD Study” J Alz Dis, Oct 2015; Vol.48: p805-12
“EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood”; The Environmental Working Group, Consumer Guides, Web. October 6, 2015; http://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide, Accessed October 6, 2015