Fish has a reputation as one of the most healthful foods you can eat. But given that there are so many types of fish in the world's waters, how can you wade through all of your choices and make the best ones for you and your family? What makes one fish more healthful than another?

First, know that simply by choosing fish over beef or other animal products, you're giving your health a boost. This is largely due to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. "People who eat more omega-3s and fewer animal products have less Alzheimer's and dementia," says Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. This is because the omega-3 fatty acids concentrate in the brain and help neurons become more flexible. "Your brain cells work better, while solid fats [such as those in animal products] make cells stiffer," Tallmadge says.

Fish with the most omega-3s include salmon, herring, anchovies or sardines. These are known as "fatty fish," meaning they contain healthful fats. These good-for-you fats are known to have a protective effect on the heart, lowering bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol and reducing the incidence of heart disease and stroke. Experts suggest eating them at least a couple of times a week for maximum health benefits.

What if you don't love omega-3-rich fish? You can still enjoy other goodies from the sea. According to Tallmadge, any white fish has only about 30 calories per ounce and is almost pure protein. Most shellfish offer similar statistics. So if you're looking to lower your fat and calorie intake, go for things like cod, flounder, shrimp, crab or lobster. Another bonus: Fish and shellfish cook quickly, often in as little as three to five minutes. There also are many inexpensive, nutritious canned fish and seafood options that will see you through several meals. Mix a can of white tuna with whole-wheat noodles and low-sodium cream of mushroom soup for a quick tuna casserole. Canned crab or shrimp can be tossed with brown rice and seasonings or on top of leafy salads for an easy dinner. And everything can be chopped, mixed with mayonnaise (light if you prefer) and packed between slices of whole-wheat bread for next day's lunch.



Sources: Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.; International Food Information Council,