Eating plenty of fish on a regular basis can help protect you from a range of serious diseases. But are there any dangers in eating too much?
Oily fish such as salmon have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids
Fish is a super-food. Packed with proteins, vitamins and minerals, and a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help to protect against a range of diseases, from cancer to heart disease, depression to arthritis.
The benefits of eating fish
No wonder the Government wants us all to eat more, with the Food Standards Agency recommending at least two portions a week of fresh, frozen, or tinned seafood (one of them of oily fish). The British Heart Foundation says eating oily fish can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your chances of survival following a heart attack. Fish does this by lowering levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood – raised levels are associated with heart disease. Fish oils also appear to help reduce blood clotting and abnormal heart rhythms after a heart attack.
What are omega-3 fatty acids, and why are they good for your heart?
Fish contain unsaturated fatty acids, which, when substituted for saturated fatty acids such as those in meat, may lower your cholesterol. But the main beneficial nutrient appears to be omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that’s thought to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, boost immunity and improve arthritis symptoms, and in children may improve learning ability. Eating one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in many fish may prevent damage to brain cells. Eating fish can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is linked with dementia. A French study of 2000 people showed that those who ate seafood at least once a week had a significantly lower risk of dementia over a seven-year period than those who didn’t.
A Swedish study of 6000 men over a 30-year period showed that those who didn’t eat any fish had between double and treble the risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to those who ate moderate or large amounts. Shellfish, such as crab and lobster, also contains selenium, thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
The eyes have it
Eating oil-rich fish regularly can help to keep the eyes bright and healthy. A recent study has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can help to protect the eyesight of those suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition which causes the retina to degenerate and the eyesight to become blurred. Fish and shellfish also contain retinol, a form of vitamin A which boosts night vision.
It’s been reported that fish can help to ease depression. Again, it’s down to omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to raise levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
Population groups that eat a lot of fish – Inuits in Greenland, for example – have low rates of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Studies have also shown fish oils to be useful in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Boost your brainpower
The human brain is almost 60% fat, with much of this being omega-3 fat. Probably for this reason, research has indicated that people who eat plenty of seafood are less likely to suffer dementia and memory problems in later life. DHA, an omega-3 fat found in seafood, has also been linked to improvements in children’s concentration, reading skills, behaviour, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
According to research carried out in Mauritius, children given lots of fish from the age of three are less likely to have criminal records by the time they reach 23.
According to dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, author of The Perricone Prescription, a salmon-packed diet can help smooth out age lines.
Regular fish consumption may relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and autoimmune disease.
Eating fish during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of delivering a premature baby.
Healthy ways to enjoy fish include baked, poached, grilled and steamed forms.
Which fish to eat
- White fish like cod are a good source of low-fat protein and minerals.
- Oily fish such as sardines, pilchards, salmon and mackerel have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Crab, lobster and mussels come into the shellfish group and contain selenium, thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
Don’t Forget That The Recommended Portion Of Fish To Eat Is “ATLEAST” Two Servings Weekly
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