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Why you should be eating more fish

There are myriad benefits to eating fish. Aside from being delicious and easy to prepare, it’s one of the most heart-healthy foods available.

One small thing: Plan a fish meal at least twice a week. Simple ideas include pilchard fish cakes, tuna pasta (add green peppers and baby tomatoes for extra flavour and crunch) or a green salad topped with canned or flaked salmon.

Studies have shown that people who regularly eat fish have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Not only is fish low in saturated fats, it’s also a great source of protein, as well as a host of other nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals.

But it’s the omega-3 fatty acids present in fish that are particularly important for heart health as they are thought to decrease triglycerides (a type of fat), lower blood pressure and even reduce blood clotting.

Long-term consumption of adequate omega 3s is also linked to improved memory, improved learning ability and reduced rates of cognitive decline. Omega 3s also improve the health aspects for pregnant women by potentially reducing the risk of premature delivery and improving brain and vision development in the foetus.

The healthiest fish to include in your diet

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should eat at least 240g of seafood per week – that’s two 120g servings of fish.

Fatty fish, including salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards and mackerel, are considered among the healthiest varieties due to their high omega-3 fat content.

Other healthy fish to add to your diet include:

  • Anchovy
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Sole
  • Tuna
  • Cod
Canned vs fresh fish

It’s not always possible – or affordable – to eat fresh fish. So it’s good to know that canned salmon, tuna, pilchards and sardines deliver the same protein, omega-3 fats and other nutrients as fresh fish, so make sure to include these regularly in your diet.

Mercury in fish – is that a health concern?

You might have heard that certain types of fish contain mercury, which isn’t good for you. However, it’s only in large amounts that mercury is dangerous – it can damage nerve cells, cause problems with vision, poor coordination and learning impairment

When it comes to safety and children, the US Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency provides guidance on serving fish to children two years and older. Smaller portions are recommended, which vary depending on the child’s age.

Steer clear of king mackerel, shark, swordfish and marlin, as these contain the highest levels of mercury.

Cooking with fish

Always cook fish thoroughly – when cooked, it must appear opaque and flake easily with a fork.

Get creative and make your own fish fingers – they’ll be tastier and more nutritious than premade ones. Simply dip strips of cod or salmon into egg whites, coat with wholewheat breadcrumbs and bake. Serve with a honey and mustard sauce.

You could also make fish tacos or a pasta salad using canned fish, frozen veg and a light dressing.

Food safety

Fish that smells fishy? That’s a sign that seafood is no longer fresh. Fish should smell briny like the sea. If you buy fresh seafood, make sure you eat it within two days.

Keep it green

You can look out for the planet’s health, too. Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to our oceans, so visit wwfsassi.co.za to ensure that the fish you buy (or order in a restaurant) is on the green list.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

References:
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321820.php
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-health-benefits-of-fish
https://www.livestrong.com/article/376793-is-canned-tuna-good-for-you/
http://wwfsassi.co.za/sassi-list/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Ask_the_doctor_Is_canned_fish_good_for_the_heart https://www.livestrong.com/article/409402-healthiest-ways-to-cook-fish/ https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish