Fish and meat are in the same food group. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), adult men 19 to 50 years old should eat 6 to 6-1/2 ounces of foods in the Protein Foods Group daily. That includes fish and meat as well poultry, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. Adult women of the same age should eat 5 to 5-1/2 ounces of foods in the Protein Foods Group daily, the USDA says.
Fish and meat are still grouped together by health-related organizations that are seeking to help people with health problems. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC” report places meat, poultry, and fish in a category separate from the other high-protein foods. One of the therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) it recommends is eating a maximum of 5 ounces of food in the meat/poultry/fish category per day.
When you look at the healthy protein benefits of eating fish vs. eating meat, though, you wonder why fish and meat are in the same food group. You can maximize your chances of living a long, healthy life by eating the right meat, but fish in general is significantly healthier than meat.
Healthy Protein: Fish
- It has significantly less saturated fat than meat, reports the Demand Media article “Seafood vs. Meat.” Saturated fat increases your chances of getting heart disease. A 3-ounce piece of sirloin has more than 3 grams of saturated fat, while 3-ounce pieces of salmon and shrimp each have less than 1 gram of saturated fat.
- It has significantly more of what health experts call “good fats.” Certain types of unsaturated fats reduce your chances of getting heart disease. About 80 percent of the fat in salmon is unsaturated vs. about 50 percent of the fat in beef sirloin.
- One of its unsaturated fats is omega-3 fatty acid. People who eat foods high in omega-3 have reduced how much triglycerides, a fat, they have in their blood by about 30 percent, reports the Harvard Health Publications’ report “Should you worry about high triglycerides?” High levels of triglycerides are a major risk factor in heart disease. Herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna all have a lot of omega-3 fatty acid.
- Its omega-3 also reduces your risk of depression, arthritis, and asthma, and might reduce your risk of dementia, according to the CNN report “The benefits of eating fish” and the WebMD report “The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”
- It contains selenium, which reduces your risk of cancer. People who ate fish were about 40 percent less likely to have prostate cancer than people who did not, the CNN report says.
“The Health Benefits of Meat, Poultry, and Fish,” an article by HowStuffWorks, makes it clear that eating fish is much better for your health than eating meat. The section on fish details how fish reduces the risk of several diseases and saves lives. “One study has linked omega-3s with less risk of sudden cardiac death,” the article reports. “Another found that older people who eat just one serving of fatty fish a week are 44 percent less likely to die from a heart attack. And more recent research has confirmed the benefits of eating fish for both men and women.”
The section on meat, though, has no information about meat reducing the risk of any specific disease or early death. It does detail meat’s large amount of vitamins and minerals. Meat, in fact, does contain a lot of the vitamins B12 and B6 as well as iron, niacin, and zinc. Meat has more iron than fish. Nevertheless, “you may need to cast meat as a bit player rather than the main character in your meals,” the article says. People who love the taste of meat should do the following if they want to continue eating meat and maximize their odds of being healthy.
Healthy Protein: Meat
- Eat more lean meat and less red meat. The “Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC” report’s list of lean cuts of meat include center cut ham, extra lean hamburger, loin chops, pork tenderloin, round steak, rump roast, and sirloin tip.
- Trim fat from meat that you cook. Then, you should broil, grill or roast meat rather than fry or bread it.
- Avoid eating organ meat such as brain, kidneys, and liver and cold cuts such as bologna and salami. Ham and roast beef are better, the USDA reports.
- Replace regular ground beef with extra lean ground beef such as ground round.
“Lean red meat, including beef, veal, and pork (sometimes referred to as “the other white meat”), can indeed be part of a healthful diet,” reports “The Health Benefits of Meat, Poultry, and Fish.”