How Seafood Helps Build a Stronger Immune System
April 6, 2022
Strengthen Your System with Seafood
While our immune systems are naturally great at defending against microorganisms, sometimes germs invade, and we find ourselves dealing with illness. Age, nutrition, stress levels and sleep habits all contribute to our body’s ability to fight diseases and promote healing.
Eating healthy foods regularly is one way to gain proactive protection. Seafood is especially impactful because it contains a multitude of micronutrients that strengthen your immune system and help your heart function properly.
“Seafood is a rich source of high quality, easily digested protein, omega-3s, vitamins and minerals, which are all essential for maintaining optimal health and immune function,” explains Jessica Miller, registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP). ASC works with organizations like SNP to help people “sea” the ways farmed fish, shellfish and shrimp deliver benefits to their lives.
A Multivitamin From The Sea
Miller thinks of seafood as a multivitamin since it’s rich in vitamins B and D, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium. The health attributes of seafood are so strong that the American Heart Association recommends adding it to your plate at least two times a week. This article dives into the details, but here’s a quick look at what each micronutrient provides:
- Vitamin D controls the immune system’s response to microorganisms and helps keep it functioning properly.
- B vitamins help keep the immune system working by promoting red and white cell development to keep oxygen flowing. They also regulate inflammation.
- Iron promotes the reproduction of immune cells.
- Zinc helps wounds heal and fights off invading viruses and bacteria. It also helps our bodies create proteins and DNA, which are critical to cell development.
- Magnesium regulates immune cell development.
- Selenium helps lower oxidative stress levels in the body and reduces inflammation to enhance immunity. It’s an antioxidant that’s unique to seafood.
Seafood is also an amazing source of omega-3s EPA and DHA, which are healthful fats that work as anti-inflammatories in the body. These fatty acids can reverse the harmful effects of the immune response and are also good for your heart. Eating 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day has been linked to a 30-50% reduction in heart attacks and helps prevent the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots.
Building Immunity and Community
If you’re wondering which types of seafood provide the best immune boosting benefits, the answer is…all of them!
“Eating a variety of seafood is important as each species provides its own unique nutrient profile from vitamin A to zinc,” says Miller. She goes on to explain that all seafood has selenium, but shrimp and clams are especially great sources. Salmon is packed with vitamin D and omega-3s.
“Those looking for anti-inflammatory benefits should focus on omega-3s. This chart shows the different levels within each species,” shared Miller. Salmon is one easy-to-find option that provides more than 1,000 milligrams per 4 oz. portion.
In addition to immunity, eating seafood from ASC-certified aquaculture farms also supports healthy communities.
“Responsibly raised salmon provides benefits beyond personal health,” said Max Depondt, general manager at ASC-certified Skuna Bay in BC, Canada “With Skuna Bay salmon and any ASC-certified seafood you buy, you support coastal communities with good jobs, cutting-edge technology and help keep our oceans a renewable resource for many generations to come.”
Tips For Adding More Seafood To Your Diet
To start adding seafood more regularly to your plate, Miller offers five tips to help make it quick and easy.
- Replace protein. Use seafood to replace another protein in a dish. It’s versatile and cooks quickly, making it perfect for busy weeknights.
- Start mild. New to seafood? Try a mild-flavored fish such as cod, pollock or haddock. These varieties are perfect for fish tacos and can be easily cooked in an air fryer.
- Spice it up. If you’re already a fan of seafood, it may be time to mix things up with fun flavor profiles. Try adding spices or marinades to your seafood dishes. Spice blends can be as simple as salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon or as flavor complex as this coffee rub! Experiment with different spices and fish to find your favorite combination or try using sauces to create flavor
- Toss it on a sheet. Sheet pan meals are an easy way to save time in food preparation and clean-up and allow you to cook everything at once. Pair your choice of fish with some veggies like asparagus, broccoli or green beans for an easy, delicious and nutritious meal.
- Go beyond the fillet. Try salmon patties, shrimp stir-fry, fish tacos or clams with whole wheat pasta. Eat foods you already enjoy and jazz it up with fish or shellfish.
New to cooking fish like salmon? Depondt says just go for it! It’s all about building confidence.
“Cooking salmon is easy but can be intimidating until you figure it out. The biggest mistake people make is fussing too much and checking and poking the fish right after they put it in the pan,” explains Depondt. “It takes at least 10-15 minutes to cook, so don’t mess with it early or it will fall apart.”
Skuna Bay’s recipes for seared chili lime salmon and garlic broiled salmon are a great place to start. Both can be made in under 30 minutes with eight ingredients or less, but are packed full of flavor and nutrition.
If you’ve had a bad experience with seafood in the past, Depondt encourages you to ask for the sea green label in grocery stores and give ASC-certified products a try.
“I’ve done many grilling demos and converted people who previously thought they don’t like salmon because it’s fishy. High-quality, fresh salmon is not fishy, and our Skuna Bay hand selection and cleaning process yields the cleanest tasting salmon on the market,” says Depondt.
If you’re ready to strengthen your immune health, look for ASC’s sea green label in a store near you. Here are some recipes to get you started in the kitchen.