Is fish a good food to add to my diet?

Fish, and particularly shellfish, is an excellent source of protein. One of the leanest protein foods available is shellfish such as clams, lobster, shrimp, or mussels. Four ounces of cooked shrimp provides 20 grams of protein (about the same as in a serving of chicken breast) but only 103 calories versus chicken’s 124 calories. The primary difference is in dietary fat. While shrimp is nearly fat-free, chicken breast contains about 3 to 4 grams of fat in a 4-ounce serving. Shellfish is virtually odorless, too, and can be altered in taste considerably by adding spices, herbs, or lemon.

The possible benefits of fish in human health first came to light in the 1970s when Greenland’s Eskimos were found to have a low rate of heart disease despite the fact that they ate a high-fat diet which included about a pound of fatty fish and whale meat a day. The key to the Eskimos’ diet was that it was high in a type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and other “oily” fish, such as mackerel and herring, are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, although all seafood contain some.

Seafood is also low in saturated fats and generally low in cholesterol. How omega-3 fatty acids benefit the body is still being investigated. However, research suggests that eating fish on a regular basis can help reduce the level of triglycerides in your blood, cut the risk of blood clotting by making the blood less sticky, and help to lower blood pressure. In addition, polyunsaturated fats (like the omega-3’s) and monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) can help reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol in the blood when consumed as part of an overall diet that’s low in total fat and saturated fat.

For help understanding the fats in your diet, see the Food and Drug Administration’s handbook, ‘A Consumer’s Guide To Fats’, at For tasty recipes for salmon and other fish, go to