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The Benefits of Fish

February 18, 2021

Fish, especially salmon and other dark-meat fish, is anti-inflammatory. What’s the problem with inflammation? It’s a good thing when you see local inflammation, like swelling around a paper cut: immune system cells are working to heal a local injury. But inflammation that hangs around for a long time throughout your body—referred to as chronic inflammation—is related to many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The good news is that much research seems to be indicating that it’s possible to manage chronic inflammation by changing your diet. An anti-inflammatory diet benefits not just your prostate, but your overall health.

While the exact mechanisms are still being studied, we do know that the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish such as salmon are beneficial in reducing inflammation in the body. What about prostate cancer specifically? There is actually not strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids prevent prostate cancer. However, some studies have linked omega-3 fatty acid intake to lower rates of death from prostate cancer.

Fish is a healthier choice for protein. The average-sized man or woman needs about 50-60 grams of protein per day; more if you are exercising vigorously or doing a lot of weight training. Older adults especially need to be mindful that they are getting enough protein, as muscle mass tends to decline with age. Fish is a high-quality source of protein, in that it contains all 9 essential amino acids—the building blocks that your body uses to assemble proteins—9 of which must be obtained from food. Yes, you can get these amino acids from red meat, but that comes with an unhealthy dose of pro-inflammatory saturated fat.

This recipe is quick, delicious, and paired with assorted vegetables, minimally cooked to maximize nutrients. The carrots contain vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, and you’ve got 3 representatives of the Allium family: garlic, shallots, and leeks. Allium vegetables contain sulfur compounds that appear to have anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits. Everything is cooked in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, a core component of the Mediterranean Diet, with extensive research to support its benefits in heart health and longevity.

One last note: There is concern about contamination from mercury, PCBs, and other toxins that fish absorb. It’s a good idea to know and monitor the types of fish you are eating, as well as understanding the source where they come from. For more information on which fish are safe to eat and in what proportion, the Washington State Department of Health website maintains an excellent resource. However, contamination with chemicals is not unique to fish, so simply avoiding fish is not a guarantee that you will avoid exposure to chemicals or other food contaminants.