We ate an average of 15.5 pounds of fish in 2015, continuing a three-year rise, says a recent reportfrom the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But here’s the catch: That’s roughly one 4-ounce serving each week, or half the 8 ounces recommended for most adults in U.S. dietary guidelines. The American Heart Association also urges adults to eat two fish meals a week. A fish-rich diet lowers the risk of dying from heart disease and may help with weight control. It’s also good for early brain development, which is why pregnant and breastfeeding women should aim for 8 to 12 ounces a week, according to draft advice from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Fish are a package of nutrients that really don’t exist anywhere else,” says Tom Brenna, a professor of nutrition and chemistry at Cornell University. He sat on the 2015 U.S. dietary guidelines panel and is on the board of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a non-profit group backed by the seafood industry. Those nutrients include protein, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and, perhaps most important, omega-3 fats, which boost heart and brain health. Other sources of omega-3 fats, such as walnuts and vegetable oils, do not pack the same punch. Neither do omega-3 supplements.