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Fishing for health

Sarah Keogh - Consultant Dietitian

sarah.keogh@eatwell.ie

These days it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the information available on healthy eating and perfect diets.  With so many foods being promoted as superfoods it can be difficult to decide which are the good foods and which are the fads.  Luckily, when it comes to fish there is no confusion.  Fish has long been recognised as one of nature’s healthiest foods and with its rich package of nutrients it is one of the few foods that can truly be called a superfood.

Heart shaped SalmonFish is rich in easy-to-digest protein.  Protein is essential for growing bodies and for healing and repair at any age.  Fish is also an excellent source of B vitamins which are needed to help your body to turn food into energy and also for healthy blood.  Fish is particularly rich in vitamin B12 – one serving of salmon will give you four times your recommended daily amount!

Fish is also rich in many of the minerals we need for good health.  Fish is a good source of zinc, iodine and selenium.  Zinc is needed for healthy skin and a healthy immune system.  Iodine is essential in helping to keep your body’s metabolism running as it should and selenium is a powerful antioxidant. 

Oil-rich fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and herring have some extra benefits.  Oil-rich fish are all good sources of vitamins A and D.  Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and good night-vision and vitamin D is essential in helping you to absorb calcium from your food. 

The other benefit of oil-rich fish is that they are rich in healthy omega-3 fats.  These special fats cannot be made by your body so it is important that you eat them regularly for good health.  Omega-3 fats are essential for healthy brain, eye and nerve development in babies and children and they may help to reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia as you get older.  Omega-3 fats also help to reduce the risk of heart disease – eating fish once a week can cut your chances of a fatal heart attack by up to 52%!  Omega-3 fats may also be important in helping to prevent or treat other diseases such as arthritis and certain types of cancer.

All of this and in a package that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol!  All types of fish have health benefits: white fish, oil-rich fish and shellfish.  Some people with high cholesterol sometimes avoid shellfish but mussels, scallops and oysters are all very low in cholesterol and studies show that even prawns, crab and lobster have no effect on blood cholesterol levels.  No wonder it is recommended that we all eat fish at least twice a week, making sure to have at least one serving of oil-rich fish.