Oily fish may be beneficial to health for a number of reasons.
The UK government recommends we consume two portions a week to provide the health benefits that have been reported in research.
Research suggests oily fish may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, heart disease and strokes, raised cholesterol and early research suggests a possible beneficial effect in depression and other mental health conditions too.
Lots of people are not clear on what exactly classes as oily fish so here’s a breakdown of which fish count:
n Salmon (tinned and fresh)
n Fresh tuna (not tinned)
Research suggests there are ways that eating oily fish can be beneficial to heart health
White fish may still contain small amounts of omega 3 which is the beneficial fat in oily fish.
However, the table shows the quantities are much smaller compared to oily fish.
Research suggests there are a number of ways that eating oily fish can be beneficial to heart health.
Firstly, oily fish may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes by reducing blood pressure.
It may also help to reduce cholesterol especially LDL cholesterol which is thought to be the cholesterol that is more dangerous to health and a possible cause in heart attacks and strokes.
Regular oily fish consumption is also believed to be beneficial for blood triglycerides.
Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat often found in animal sources. They are also made by the liver. High levels may be a contributory factor in poor heart health. That’s not to say we shouldn’t eat animal products but be mindful of how much we are consuming.
Current research suggests that consuming oily fish twice per week may be beneficial to mental health, especially depression.
It can be protective against developing it and also beneficial for those who suffer from it.
The research suggests it is most beneficial when combined with a healthy and active lifestyle with limited alcohol, regular exercise and plenty of fresh, unprocessed food.
Foods rich in omega 3 may also have other health benefits for improving overall health e.g. being high in protein, vitamin D, selenium and some B vitamins. All of which are important for good health.
NHS advice recommends that we consume two 140g portions of oily fish each week.
However, it is important that pregnant and/or breastfeeding women, and children, shouldn’t exceed these recommendations due to the mercury content of some oily fish.
Adults may consume more than this - however, a broad range of foods is best for optimal health and therefore other protein sources should also be included.
It is important pregnant and breastfeeding women consume oily fish as the DHA it contains is particularly beneficial in utero.
It’s important for development in utero and in childhood so an adequate intake is vital for growth and development.
Mercury toxicity can be harmful to babies and young children, however, following the guidelines has been demonstrated to be safe in the research.
Steaming, baking and grilling are the safest and healthiest methods of cooking oily fish.
Always ensure it is properly cooked before serving. Here are some suggestions of ways to include oily fish in your diet:
n Swap meat for oily fish twice per week
n Make fish fingers from salmon for children and serve with sweet potato wedges and vegetables
n Use in curries
n Add to a risotto
n Bake in a parcel and serve with roasted vegetables or salad.
Hannah Bailey is the founder of Wise Choice Nutrition in Sheffield - see https://wisechoicenutrition.co.uk for further details.