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5 Reasons to Eat SMASH Fish

Many types of fish are enjoyable to eat, but there are only a select few that are packed with essential nutrients, low in mercury and full of tantalizing flavor.

Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade from Pexels

The SMASH fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring) are the special few that make up this latter category, and it’s easy to see why:

These five distinct types of fish offer bountiful supplies of essential nutrients, a plethora of omega-3 fatty acids, minimal levels of mercury, consistent delight for your tastebuds and more.

On that note, let’s dive into the science behind these pescatarian superfoods in our Living Proof Guide to SMASH Fish:

Part 1: 5 Benefits of Eating SMASH Fish

The benefits of eating SMASH are truly too numerous to encapsulate in a blog post, but here are some key ones you need to know:

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

SMASH fish possess high-quality supplies of omega-3 fatty acids unparalleled by practically any other food or supplement.

With a single serving of salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines or herring, you can easily reach your daily target of 250-500 mg of omega-3 fats.

So, why is this important?

Omega-3 fatty acids can provide a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Improved Cardiovascular Health
  • Reduced Inflammation
  • Stronger Bones and Joints
  • Reduced Risk of Autoimmune Diseases
  • Enhanced Brain Function

This first benefit is especially noteworthy, as steady consumption of quality omega-3 fatty acids can decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and more - - all greatly enhancing heart function.

Important Note: For more insight on the impact of nutritious fish on your health, check out our in-depth blog on The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in an Anti-inflammatory Diet.

Low in Mercury

Mercury (“Hg”) is a heavy metal found naturally in air, water and soil, but is also a toxic chemical that can build up in the tissues of certain types of fish and when eaten too often, can negatively affect humans.

Excessive consumption of high-mercury fish (swordfish, Chilean sea bass, tilefish, Bigeye tuna) can lead to mercury poisoning -- particularly in pregnant women and young children -- which temporarily raises the risks of:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Unhealthy Levels of LDL Cholesterol
  • Inhibited Brain Function
  • Nerve Damage

Fortunately, SMASH fish are notably low in mercury, making them safe for routine consumption by all adults and children. 

To be more precise, look below at SMASH mercury levels compared to those of high-mercury fish. The differences are stark:

  • Salmon: 0.022 ppm
  • Mackerel:  0.011 ppm
  • Anchovies: 0.017 ppm
  • Sardines: 0.013 ppm
  • Herring: 0.084 ppm
  • Swordfish: 0.995 ppm
  • Chilean sea bass: 0.354 ppm
  • Tilefish: 0.380 ppm
  • Bigeye tuna: 0.689 ppm

Excellent Source of Iodine

Iodine (“I”) is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in regulating your growth and metabolism (the system of chemical processes that keep your organs functioning).

It achieves this by helping your thyroid produce vital hormones that protect your cells, nourish your organs and maintain a stable, healthy metabolic rate.

Though iodine is pivotal in the pursuit of optimal health, it can often be challenging to find in many foods and beverages.

This is concerning, as iodine deficiency can be very dangerous, potentially leading to adverse side effects like: 

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hair Loss
  • Pregnancy Difficulties
  • Inhibited Brain Function
  • Weight Gain

Luckily for you, SMASH fish are chock full of essential iodine, helping you easily reach your target of 140 micrograms per day when consumed regularly.

Important Note: If you’re interested in boosting your metabolism and enhancing organ function, check out our Simple Guide to Thyroid Health for science-backed tips on supporting your thyroid.

Quality Source of Selenium

Selenium (“Se”) is another essential mineral, playing an even broader role in your health than iodine.

Adequate consumption of selenium - - only 55 micrograms per day - - can offer numerous biological benefits, such as:

  • Boosted Thyroid Function
  • Cell Protection from Free Radicals
  • Lower Risk of Heart Disease
  • Slowed Cognitive Degeneration with Age

Conversely, a deficiency of selenium can potentially lead to:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Increased Risk of Anxiety 
  • Diminished Immune Function
  • Impaired Thyroid Function
  • Enlarged Joints

As you can probably guess by now, all types of SMASH fish are excellent sources of selenium that can help you sidestep these negative outcomes.

In fact, just a few servings of the SMASH fish a week can quickly help you clear your selenium threshold.

Enhances Longevity

Research from institutions like the American Heart Association suggests that consuming SMASH fish twice a week can potentially lengthen your lifespan.

While this claim sounds too good to be true, one only needs to look at diets in global regions where people live the longest to see the correlation between SMASH and longevity:

From Okinawa, Japan to Sardinia, Italy, areas of the world with incredible average lifespans often feature SMASH fish as part of their culture’s well-rounded and nutritious average diets.

Why can SMASH play such a significant role in longevity?

Simply refer to the benefits we detailed above:

From improved heart, brain and thyroid function to adequate consumption of essential minerals and more, SMASH fish provide an elusive mixture of flavor, versatility and bonafide health benefits that few other foods can match.

Whether you’re new to fish or a full-fledged pescatarian, a little more SMASH might be what you need to take your health to the next level.

Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

Part 2: Farmed vs. Wild - what you need to know

Now that we’ve covered why you should consume SMASH fish, let’s conclude by explaining why you should always opt for wild varieties over farmed.

Wild-caught fish are just that: wild. They have the optimal diets of fish living in their natural environment and are less likely to suffer from a range of diseases and illnesses. 

For these reasons, wild-caught varieties of SMASH are more nutritious and less likely to contaminate humans.

Conversely, farmed or “farm-raised” fish are developed in an environment controlled by humans in the hopes of maximizing profits.

As a result, these kinds of fish are cheaper. They also pose several potential drawbacks and health risks to humans:

Whether it’s their diminished nutrient profile due to a deficient diet, potential contamination by animal waste and byproducts or forced consumption of drugs and antibiotics to counteract disease/illnesses, the makeup of farmed fish pales in comparison to its wild counterparts.

If you seek to improve your diet with SMASH fish, take our advice: spend a few extra dollars and opt for wild-caught fish. Your entire body will thank you for it.

For any questions about nutrition, self-care or other healthy living protocols, feel free to contact us at any time.

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 20 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. There is no One-Size-Fits-All dietary approach, but Ms Jubilee has experienced great success utilizing specific dietary protocols such as intermittent fasting, time restricted eating, low carb/ketogenic dietary regimens and AIP (autoimmune protocol) in her practice.

In 2005, Lisa co-created Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan. The inspiration behind Living Proof was to create a private fitness and wellness space, where the importance of nutrition and functional movement are emphasized in tandem.

As of March 2020, in order to continue to service her clients and the public at large during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Jubilee is offering all of her nutrition counseling and support services remotely. Feel free to contact Lisa with any questions: Lisa@livingproofnyc.com