The health benefits of rockfish are massively undervalued. Pacific rockfish, also known as rock cod or Pacific snapper, is a lean mild-flavored fish high in protein, vitamin D, and selenium. Everyone has been beaten over the head with health benefits of protein by now. Protein is made up of amino acids, which rebuild cells (skin, hair, muscle, etc.), and consequently allow you to recover from exercise and stress quickly and look and feel good. The benefits of Vitamin D are fairly common knowledge as well. Vitamin D can help with weight loss, it can help you maintain a consistent sleep wake pattern, and can help bone and muscle health, but selenium is a relatively unknown nutrient that has been generating a lot of attention recently for its extensive health benefits. Selenium is relatively hard to add to your diet, unless you’re tossing back those Brazil nuts and organ meats, but lucky for you it is readily available in rockfish.
Selenium has powerful antioxidant properties, meaning it can prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. High blood levels of selenium are also associated with higher levels of glutathione peroxidase, one of the most powerful antioxidants . Excessive free radicals floating around in your body often proceeds cancerous cell growth, stroke, and heart disease. Free radicals like those found in rockfish, mitigate oxidative stress and all of its negative consequences.
Selenium may also reduce the risk of certain cancers through the effect that selenium has on oxidative stress. A meta-analysis of 69 studies showed that high blood levels of selenium greatly reduce one’s risk of developing breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer. Within these studies the relationship between selenium levels and the reduction in cancer rates was found in patients who consumed selenium rich foods, like rockfish, and not in patients who took selenium supplements. That is not to say that supplementing with selenium isn’t effective, but in general nutrients are absorbed more effectively in natural foods, like rockfish, than in supplements.
Selenium may also protect against heart disease. Diets low in selenium have been linked to increased coronary heart disease rates. In a meta-analysis of 25 different heart disease studies, a 50% increase in blood levels of selenium was associated with a 25% decrease in coronary artery disease. Selenium may also lower generalized inflammation, another huge risk factor for heart disease.
Selenium has also been shown to help prevent mental decline. Oxidative stress in the brain plays an enormous role in Alzheimers and all other manifestations of dementia like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. Studies have shown that patients with low blood levels of selenium are at higher risk of Alzheimers disease. Further studies have shown that people with Alzheimers who ate selenium rich foods and supplements saw a decrease in symptoms.
Selenium is also important for maintaining a healthy thyroid gland. The thyroid gland actually contains more selenium than any other gland in the body. A healthy thyroid gland is associated with a faster metabolism and better defense against oxidative damage body. Selenium deficiencies has been linked to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and leads to a massive reduction in metabolism, hair loss, skin problems, and general malaise. The thyroid energizes your body and mind. Selenium helps fuel your thyroid gland and allow it to function properly. So if you want to feel good and look good you need to eat selenium rich foods like rockfish. In conjunction with boosting thyroid health selenium also boosts the immune system, by helping the body fight off viruses, bacteria and parasites. Studies have shown that increased blood levels of selenium as decreased rates of hepatitis C, influenza, and tuberculosis.
The bottom line is that selenium is an often overlooked powerful nutrient that contributes to overall heath. Rockfish is one of the best sources of selenium out there. So eat up.
Nikumaroro is one of the wildest places left on the planet. On the island, I encountered thriving seabird colonies, eels lunging from the lagoon-edge like crocodiles to drag crabs from the sand… I even faced-off (and backed down from) a terrier-sized coconut crab that I met on a jungle trail. But forget all of that—something else I saw on that island stays with me today, and affected the course of my life.