Dr. Clarence Davis, M.D.,
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
As a child growing up in Florida, I have very fond memories of crabbing with my father. There is no smartphone app that can replace the quality time spent with him on those beaches. At the time, it seemed like a fun activity spent with dad. Now as a physician and parent myself, I am grateful for the health lesson he also taught me.
Introducing me to a seafood diet set me on a path of lifetime health benefits. Yes, it tastes great, but the healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in it also decreases my risk of cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in Memphis), it helps with inflammation caused by arthritis and helps with brain and eye development.
I suggest that all of my patients meet the USDA guidelines and eat two servings of seafood a week. It is an extremely easy and economical step to a healthier life. Just committing two meals a week to seafood can reduce your risk of heart disease by 36 percent.
For parents, it will change their family tree. Your children will be effected, your parents will be effected and you will be effected. Is there a greater gift you can give than the knowledge of how to live healthy?
It is essential for expectant mothers to get their omega-3 fatty acids from seafood for their child. Mothers who eat seafood twice a week have babies with a higher IQ and improved brain and eye development, and children who eat seafood and supplement it with omega-3s have improved attention span and fewer adverse behavioral outcomes.
A seafood-rich diet is beneficial to seniors as well. The increased omega-3s help with inflammation from arthritis, and seniors who eat seafood regularly have better memory and live longer, an average of 2.2 years longer.
There is nothing stopping you. Seafood is a very affordable protein option. The frozen and canned varieties offer the same nutritional benefits as the fresh options. In fact, canned sardines are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Also, do not be intimidated about cooking seafood. It is easy to do and if you are unsure, visit www.seafoodnutrition.org for tips and recipes.
For all of its health benefits though, people still are not getting enough omega-3s in their diet with 90 percent of Americans not eating seafood twice a week. The ideal omega-3 index is 8 percent, but the U.S. average is only 2-3 percent, while the Japanese average is at 8 percent.
We can change this today. Take the Healthy Heart Pledge (www.seafoodnutrition.org), and pledge to eat those two servings of seafood a week. Share this information with family and friends. Together, we can change our own health outcomes and that of our city. Eat your seafood.
(Dr. Clarence Davis, M.D., is chief medical officer of Memphis Health Center and former Medicaid medical director at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. He hosts “Improving Your Health with Dr. Clarence Davis” on WDIA-1070 AM at 10 a.m. the first Wednesday of every month. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)