If you’ve visited any of the countries bordering the Mediterranean, you may have eaten native recipes made with this little sea creature. What you may not know is all the amazing health benefits that come with their wonderful recipes. The little creature is part of the Octopus family – squid – but is most commonly known by its Italian name calamari.
It’s likely one of the reasons why Mediterranean cultures, who eat it often, have far less levels of heart and brain disease than anywhere else in the world. And may be why they live longer. You, too, can get these benefits. Here’s how.
Up Your Heart and Brain Health with Calamari
Mediterranean peoples have been eating calamari – or squid – for centuries. They only knew that they enjoyed its mild, slightly sweet taste and that calamari was a plentiful food source for them. Yet, after studying health and longevity in Mediterranean cultures, modern researchers now believe they have one more piece of the puzzle to their incredible good health. Calamari! Seems that these little squids are packed with powerful nutrients that have special health benefits to older people like the following:
1. B2, B3, 12. As people get older, they commonly become deficient in these 3 significant B vitamins. B2, or riboflavin, deficiency can show up in frequent headaches, especially migraines. B3 deficiency can show itself in impaired blood sugar function and the onset of type 2 diabetes. B12 deficiency is a common occurrence in older people as your ability to absorb this vitamin from your food decreases significantly after age 30. Lack of B12 can contribute to low energy, anemia, high homocysteine levels, and (a protein that can damage your heart).
2. Copper. Just one serving of squid – calamari – can give you 90% of your daily copper requirement. Copper helps you absorb iron better and build more red blood cells which helps prevent anemia – something common to older men.
3. DHA. Recent research has found calamari to be particularly rich sources of DHA – (docosahexaenoic acid), the Omega-3 fatty acid found specifically to protect brain and heart tissues. In fact your brain and eyes contain 95% of DHA fatty acid and decreases here can set you up for cognitive disorders and depression as well as degenerative conditions of your eyes. DHA is found in the “conduction” tissues of your heart that help it function correctly. It also helps normalize triglyceride levels.
Fish typically contain more of another essential fatty acid – EPA – but calamari has been found to be particularly high in DHA. Researchers recently learned that your body prefers DHA Omega-3 to EPA, so eating calamari can help you meet this requirement.
3. Magnesium. This mineral smoothes out what could become dangerous “kinks” in muscles of your heart as well as the rest of your muscles. It also helps nerves function smoothly.
4. Phosphorus. Calamari contains good levels of the mineral phosphorus, which acts as a helper to calcium in keeping your bones and teeth strong.
5. Potassium. Potassium is a key mineral that helps regulate your blood pressure as well as your heartbeat and your energy levels.
6. Protein. Squid is packed with protein that is significant to the repair of every tissue in your body. Yet, its best benefit to older people is that eating it frequently helps you replace lost muscle tissue that can be lost with aging. It also has some great perks for your hair, skin and nails in keeping them young and healthy looking.
7. Selenium. Selenium is a major antioxidant that helps put out the inflammation fires throughout your body. Inflammation, researchers have come to learn in the past decade, plays a big role in whether you will develop serious diseases of aging like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, even cancer.
8. Zinc. This mineral helps keep your hormones functioning correctly (especially men), and helps boost your sex drive. It also boosts your immune system, increasing your tolerance to infectious organisms.
As you get older, adding specific foods to your diet, or taking their equivalent in supplements, can help you reap their unique health benefits. Having a few servings a week of calamari, or taking its equivalent in a high grade supplement that uses calamarine oil derived from them, will help your brain and heart stay healthy longer. It could, like most Mediterranean peoples, even boost your longevity by many years.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.