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5 reasons to fill up on fish

It’s nutritious, delicious and swimming in fab health benefits. Put some fish in your basket today…

Fish is a great addition to your diet. It’s a low­ calorie, high­ protein ‘brain food’ and oily fish, in particular, is high in polyunsaturated essential omega­ 3 fatty acids. The human body can’t naturally produce omega ­3s, but your body needs them, inside and out. Although the link between omega ­3s and heart health has long been known, several new studies present even more evidence that fish high in fatty acids is essential for total­ body wellness, including skin and hair, memory and mental health.

The NHS recommends at least two portions of fish are consumed each week.Generally speaking, all types of fish are good for you. They are high in many nutrients most people aren’t getting enough of, including high­ quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals. However, some fish seem better than others, and the oily types of fish are considered the healthiest because fatty fish has more fat ­based nutrients, including omega ­3s and fat­ soluble vitamin D.

Improves fertility

While not the most obvious health benefit, one study of 188 men found those who ate more fresh fish – along with other healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – had stronger swimmers than those who ate unhealthy diets. Researchers say more study needs to be done, but preliminary data shows the better the participant’s diet, the stronger the shape and mobility of the sperm produced.

Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s

One of the consequences of ageing is that brain function often deteriorates, referred to as age-related cognitive decline.

This is normal in many cases,but then there are also serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, many observational studies have shown that people who eat more fish have slower rates of cognitive decline. One mechanism could be related to grey matter in the brain.

Grey matter is the tissue in your brain, responsible for processing information, storing memories and making you human.

Studies have shown that those who eat fish every week have more grey matter in the centres of the brain regulating emotion and memory.

Prevents heart disease

Fish is generally considered to be among the best foods you can eat for a healthy heart. Not surprisingly, many large studies have shown that people who eat fish regularly seem to have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease.

A Danish study of 49,000 women found that women who ate little or no fish had 50% more heart problems than those who ate fish at least once per week. Additionally, researchers found women who very rarely ate fish had a three­fold higher disease risk than those who ate it often. Other research has found that eating fish high in omega­ 3s can slash blood fat levels, which can contribute to a lower heart disease risk.

Indeed it was when scientists first noted the much lower number of heart attacks and strokes suffered by eskimos, whose diet is dominated by oily fish, that interest in the health benefits of oily fish started.

Makes you feel happier

Depression is a serious and incredibly common mental disorder, characterised by low mood, sadness, decreased energy and loss of interest in life and usual activities. Studies have found that people who eat fish regularly are much less likely to become depressed.*

Numerous controlled trials have also found omega­ 3 fatty acids are beneficial against depression, and significantly increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medication.**

Gives you glowing skin

The fats found in omega­ 3s in fish are exactly the type of healthy fat to eat to keep your skin looking nourished. A 2005 study in the Journal of Lipid Research discovered that one of them, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, known as EPA for short, can help block the release of the UV­induced enzymes that eat away at collagen, causing lines and sagging skin.

Because EPA is both an antioxidant and an anti ­inflammatory agent, it can also protect against sun damage and help to repair it.

Oily wonders

These are all oily fish, and so are good sources of long ­chain omega­ 3, although the NHS recommend women planning to get pregnant should eat no more than two portions a week:

  • Anchovies
  • Carp
  • Herring (bloater, kipper and hilsa are types of herring)
  • Jack (also known as scad, horse mackerel and trevally)
  • Mackerel
  • Pilchards
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Sprats
  • Trout
  • Tuna (fresh, not tinned)
  • Whitebait

Heavy metal

It’s not all good news, however. Some fish products have been shown to contain varying amounts of heavy metals, particularly mercury and fat­ soluble pollutants from water pollution. Fish high on the food chain, such as tuna, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, contain higher concentrations of mercury than others.

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