Not everyone is a fan of fish on the menu, but not eating fish means missing out on the many healthy and essential nutrients that your body could be using to function at its best. Fish can benefit every part of you – from your head to your toes – and with a wide range of types, tastes and textures, it can bring variety and novelty to your meals. Just don’t microwave the leftovers at the office.

Below, we’ll explain why and how eating fish regularly is important for you and your family.

Why fish is good for us

What makes fish so healthy? Here are three good reasons for including fish as a regular part of your diet:

Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids

You get the most benefit from eating fish that is higher in nutrients – specifically omega-3 fatty acids – and lower in contaminants, like mercury. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as a “good” kind of fat. One of the most important things we get from consuming fish is omega-3s.

The types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Our bodies cannot make EPA and DHA, so eating fish is the main way to get these important fatty acids.

Fish is high in protein and low in fat

Fish is a great choice for getting the protein your body needs, while having less “bad” fat content than other protein options, like red meat. For this reason and others, fish is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which studies have shown is the best diet for heart health.

Fish is full of necessary vitamins and minerals

Fish is bursting with healthy vitamins and minerals that help us feel good. Eating fish provides us with important B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin D, plus minerals like calcium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, potassium and selenium.

Top health benefits of fish

Here’s all the amazing things that consuming fish can do for you:

1. Lowers risk of heart disease

Studies show that eating fish regularly can reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, like congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. It can also prevent incidences of related conditions, like ischemic stroke.

2. Improves brain health

Fish contains lots of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to healthy brain function. Eating plenty of fish can help combat depression and ADHD, plus reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life.

3. Promotes baby’s brain development during pregnancy

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is an important building block of the brain, eyes and nerves for babies growing in the womb. Once they’re born, babies receive DHA and other essential nutrients for growth from breast milk, as long as their mothers continue to eat fish.

Studies show children benefit developmentally in this way when their moms eat about 2-3 servings of fish per week during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (with a serving being a four-ounce portion). However, the mercury found in some fish can be harmful to moms and growing babies. Check out our blog on eating fish while pregnant for tips on how to safely include fish in your pregnancy and postpartum diet.

4. Improves sleep quality

Fish packs a double punch when it comes to helping you sleep well. The omega-3s and vitamin D in fish help regulate the level of serotonin in our brains, and serotonin contributes to high-quality sleep. That’s because serotonin triggers the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Plus, the fatty acid DHA found in fish also plays a role in sleep by directly increasing melatonin production.

The positive effects of good sleep tend to spread into other areas of our well-being, like physical and mental health.

5. Reduces risk of autoimmune diseases

Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D support the proper function of the immune system and inflammation response in our bodies. A 2021 study found that a diet rich in these nutrients, whether from fish or from supplements, can lower the risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease.

6. Helps prevent asthma in children

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the lung inflammation associated with asthma. Introducing fish into your child’s diet early on (when they are between 6-9 months old) and including it at least once in weekly meals can improve asthma symptoms and reduce the risk of asthma in children younger than 14.

7. Preserves vision in old age

The healthy fats and naturally occurring oil in fish are great for our eye health. As we age, eating fish – especially oily ones like sardines, salmon and trout – can help us maintain healthy eyes and even reverse dry eye.

Everyone can benefit from eating more fish, but certain groups have to be more careful about what types of fish they eat, and how much. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children younger than 11 years old are more susceptible to the negative effects of mercury – and some fish species contain more mercury than others. Pregnant women should also avoid eating uncooked seafood, like sushi or smoked fish.

The benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks if you choose fish that are low in mercury. Read our blog on eating fish while pregnant for more information on what fish are safe to eat and how much to include in your weekly diet.

What about fish oil supplements?

While taking fish oil supplements is better than eating no fish at all, supplements can’t deliver the same amount and diversity of vitamins and minerals that real fish can. So if you want all the benefits listed above, it’s best to go with the real thing.

Fish is a superfood

Fish isn’t always everyone’s favorite, but it’s definitely a superfood that’s worth eating. If fish hasn’t been a regular part of your diet up to this point, try cooking it in new ways and including it in different meals. You might just find your next favorite dish.

For delicious, healthy recipe ideas that include fish, visit our Choose Your Fish page.