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Seafood: The perfect protein choice?

Off the hook

Meats are a main staple of the human diet, from fast food to gourmet meals. Aside from being delicious, meat gives us the essential proteins that help repair and restore muscle tissue, bones, cartilage, skin and blood. But meats like beef and turkey are high in saturated fat. Seafood, on the other hand, might be the perfect protein alternative.

Woman eating fish

Are you getting enough protein?

Whether you're looking to gain muscle, lose weight or just eat healthier, protein is a crucial building block in the human body. Sure, protein supplements can help boost protein intake, but nutrients absorbed through food are always superior to supplements, says Lisa Moskovitz, a New York-based nutritionist. Food boasts other vitamins and nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and zinc. Supplements can also contain high amounts of fat and starch, which can delay weight loss efforts.

"Bottom line, unless you are an athlete or bodybuilder, you will easily be able to get all your daily protein needs through diet alone," Moskovitz says.

The average 160 pound adult needs about 64 grams of protein a day, according to The Institute of Medicine, which translates to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Poultry is the typical go-to protein source and offers about 30 grams of protein per 3.5 ounce serving of chicken breast. Though, seafood can go toe-to-toe with poultry.

Seafood and protein

A 3.5 ounce salmon filet contains about 27 grams of protein, while a single six ounce can of tuna holds a whopping 40 grams of the body-building macronutrient. Unlike poultry, fish and other seafood contains omega-3's and the accompanying fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, otherwise known as DHA.

"Fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, trout or tuna are the best sources of protein, as well as heart and brain protecting omega-3," Moskovitz says.

Omega-3's have also been proven to improve the appearance of hair, skin, nails and eyes, as well as regulate blood clotting and blood vessel dilation and restriction, prevent heart disease and help alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with arthritic conditions.

Other benefits of seafood

Other added benefits of eating seafood as a protein source include low carbohydrates and amino acids, which help increase energy levels, endurance, mental alertness and immune function, says David Buer, celebrity trainer who has helped sculpt the bodies of Leonardo DiCaprio and LL Cool J.

"Incorporating seafood … into your current diet has tremendous health benefits," Buer says. "But like any other food it contains calories so make sure to monitor portions and serving sizes based on your goals. Too much of a good thing is still too much no matter how you slice it."

Seafood and mercury

Though some people steer away from fish in fear of coming into contact with mercury, it's a legitimate concern. High and frequent consumption of fish may be detrimental to women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant and to children, with its high mercury levels potentially affecting the brain and nervous system. But most people do not need to worry about the small levels of mercury found in fish, Moskovitz says. Pregnant women and children should limit their intake of fish to 12 ounces or less a week, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Kid-friendly fish recipes

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