Fish and Seafood: Health Powerhouses of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is known for its plethora of health benefits. An important and tasty part of this famed diet is fish and seafood — they offer an array of nutrients and health benefits that are often overshadowed by the limelight on fruits, vegetables, and olive oil (although, we love all of these too!).


Table of contents:

The Role of Fish in the Mediterranean Diet

The role of fish in this heart-healthy, longevity-promoting diet cannot be overstated. And you don’t need to eat it every day to reap the benefits. Plus, you can choose from a wide range of healthy fish and don’t have to eat them all if you find some too “fishy” or have kids who just can’t handle mackerel’s punchy aroma and taste. 

Types of Healthy Fish: You Have Choices

Contrary to popular belief, the category of “fish” in the Mediterranean diet encompasses a wide variety of species, each with its unique nutritional profile. Among the most common are:

  • Cod: A good sauce of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B6. 
  • Salmon: Rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
  • Sardines: Packed with calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Mackerel: A source of essential vitamins like B12 and selenium.
  • Tuna: Offers high levels of protein and essential amino acids.
  • Trout: Contains antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids.
  • Shellfish: Including shrimp, clams, and mussels, known for their zinc and protein content.

Nutritional Profile: What Makes Fish a Health Powerhouse

Why are these nutrients important for your health?

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: EPA and DHA contribute to cardiovascular health.
  • Protein: High-quality, easily digestible protein for muscle building and maintenance.
  • Micronutrients: Rich in vitamins (A, D, B) and minerals like selenium, iodine, and zinc; we need a full range of micronutrients to keep our bodies and minds happy.
  • Low in Saturated Fats: On top of this, fish generally have lower levels of saturated fats compared to red meat.

Health Benefits of Eating Fish

The nutritional properties of fish and seafood can boost:

  • Cardiovascular Health: Lower levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Regular consumption has been linked to lower rates of heart disease. 
  • Brain Function: Omega-3s are essential for cognitive development and function.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Combat systemic inflammation, lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Mood Regulation: Omega-3s have been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Eye Health: Nutrients like DHA are crucial for retinal function.
  • Bone Health: Certain fish like sardines and salmon are rich in calcium and vitamin D, which play a crucial role in maintaining bone health.
  • Weight Management: Due to their protein content and the absence of unhealthy fats, they help you feel fuller for longer. 

As you can see, fish and seafood can support your body and mind in just about every way. 

Cooking Methods: Mastering the Mediterranean Style

The way fish is typically prepared in the Mediterranean diet enhances its health benefits and helps to retain its nutritional value. Choose the following methods for maximum health:

  • Grilling: One of the healthiest methods, grilling fish retains its flavor and avoids adding unnecessary fats.
  • Steaming: This method preserves the integrity of the fish and its nutrient value, ensuring you reap maximum benefits.
  • Poaching: Gently cooking fish in water or broth, poaching is another healthy cooking method that keeps the fish moist and flavorful.

So, what’s the least healthy way to cook fish then (just so you know)? Deep frying. That’s because deep frying involves submerging the fish in hot oil, leading to a significant increase in fat and calorie content. The high temperatures can also cause the formation of harmful compounds. Plus, the nutritional value of the fish goes down thanks to the loss of some essential nutrients while frying.

How to Incorporate Olive Oil Into Your Diet

From dressings to sautéing, olive oil’s versatility is unmatched. Here are some suggestions:

  • Drizzle over salads or steamed vegetables.
  • Use in salad dressings with other ingredients like vinegar. 
  • Use as a base for marinades.
  • Replace butter with olive oil in baking for a healthier alternative.
  • Add a splash to pasta or risotto for a rich, silky finish.

Why not whip up this creamy Greek tzatziki which features EVOO and plenty of other healthy ingredients too? Or if you’re looking for a main meal, this one-pan Greek chicken thighs recipe with roast veg ticks all the boxes. 

Incorporating Fish and Seafood into Your Diet

To fully harness the benefits of fish and seafood in the Mediterranean Diet, incorporate them into your meals several times a week. There are many ways to do this but if you’re not a big fish fan (yet) then stews can be a great place to start, and begin with milder-tasting fish and seafood like cod and clams. 

  • Salads: Tinned tuna or shrimp salads with olives, tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil are easy and nutritious. 
  • Stews and Soups: A traditional Mediterranean fish stew or a simple seafood soup is hearty and healthful. You can use frozen fish too, which might widen the options for you, depending on where you live. 
  • Grilled: From grilled sardines to swordfish steaks, this way you can make them the star of the show. Simply add some sides like salad, grilled veg, or rice, and your dinner is done. 


How often should I eat fish for optimal health benefits?

Incorporating fish 2–3 times a week is generally considered beneficial.

Are all types of fish equally healthy?

While most fish are healthy, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel offer more omega-3s.

Is it better to consume wild or farmed fish?

Wild fish usually have a higher nutrient content, but responsibly farmed fish are a good alternative.

How should I store fresh fish?

Refrigerate and consume within 1–2 days.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply