There are a whole host of benefits to a seafood-rich diet, but a new study has demonstrated that eating more fish may actually help you live a longer, healthier life. The secret ingredient, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, is found in many foods including nuts, greens, vegetables, and some oils, but the fats that provide the most benefits are most often in seafood.
“There had been studies that looked at the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and individual components of healthy aging, but not in combination,” said study co-author Heidi Lai. Lai is a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Our study contributes to that gap of knowledge.”
The study was centered not only on aging, but on healthy aging, specifically getting to an advanced age relatively free of major or chronic health conditions. Lai stressed that living healthy is a better indicator than living long, because human longevity is already on the rise. Study participants that had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and ate more seafood overall lived to and beyond age 65 with general good health and no major diseases.
Researchers looked at over 2,500 adults who’d agreed to participate in the U.S. Cardiovascular Health Study. All were considered healthy at the onset of the study, with an average age of 74 years old. Using blood samples, their levels of 46 different omega-fatty acids were measured three times—once at the beginning of the study, again six years later, and seven years following that. With so many years of tracked data, researchers had an excellent opportunity to see meaningful results and determine specific common factors among those who’d aged in good health. At the final test, only 11% of participants were shown to have aged healthy, and of those, the common thread seemed to be omega-3 fatty acids. The people who showed the least risk of unhealthy aging had diets richer in omega-3 acids from seafood. It’s already known that seafood is associated with a healthy diet, reducing the risk of cardiovascular and cognitive decline. Those who ate at least two servings of fish per week showed the lowest risk of age-related diseases.
While other foods can provide similar benefits, the way the compounds are processed change their overall effect and fish tend to prolong good health the most. Here are some of the best sources of omega-3 seafood.
Salmon – Aside from being delicious and lower in mercury than other options, fatty fish like salmon are high on the American Heart Association’s list of healthy seafood options. Aim for 3.5 ounces of cooked salmon for an omega-3 boost.
Sardines – You’ll feel better about your pizza if you top it with sardines. Sardines are a great source of healthy fat and can be used to add a unique flair to many dishes.
Albacore tuna – One of the easiest ways to grab some omega-3 is through regular tuna. Only ¾ of a cup twice a week will provide you with enough fatty acids to help prevent chronic disease.