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Blog: Eat More FISH! But, why?


Blog: Eat More FISH! But, why?

FISH! A fabulous source of high quality protein, low in saturated fat and a great source of Omega 3 unsaturated fat. Yet, in the UK, 75% of the adult population fall short of eating the recommended amount of 1 lean and 1 oily portion of fish each week. Here I give some answers to commonly asked questions about fish.

Why is FISH so important in our diet?

The unsaturated fat in fish is Omega 3 of which EPA and DHA are the most important types. Fish, particularly oily fish like trout, salmon, sardines and mackerel are our only direct source. EPA is crucial for the development of an unborn baby, particularly vision, for optimal growth in children and for long-term health, especially to reduce the risk of heart disease. Although our bodies can make EPA from plant-based food, it’s a complicated process producing far less overall than found naturally in fish. But there's a lot more to fish than Omega 3! Pink fish like trout and salmon have high levels of antioxidants and all fish are a great source of highly digestible, complete protein (meaning they contain all the essential building blocks of protein that we need). Vitamin D is also present in oily fish. In the UK, our levels tend to be low, so fish provides an excellent additional source.

Why is EPA Omega 3 so crucial?

EPA unsaturated fat is an essential part of our body’s cell walls, so it ensures the cell performs its function correctly. This is especially important for the specialised cells of our immune system and those lining our blood vessels. Excellent research has shown a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke for those with a higher oily fish intake in their diet. Even better, those patients who have already suffered a heart incident or stroke due to a blood clot have been shown to have much better long-term recovery after increasing fish in their diet. Both EPA and DHA have important anti-inflammatory functions too.

What about pregnancy?

Public Health England currently recommends 1 portion of lean fish and 1 portion of oily fish each week during pregnancy to provide enough DHA for healthy eye and brain development in the unborn baby. This amount is still considered to be safe and disproves concerns about higher levels of mercury in oily fish, higher up the food chain. Also, a recent investigation called The Salmon in Pregnancy Study has shown a reduced level of asthma in children over 2 1/2 years old, born to mothers with a good intake of fish EPA - passed on to the baby via breastfeeding.

Why is FISH still such a good choice into senior years?

As fish is such a good source of high quality protein it’s particularly handy later in life when it becomes hard to maintain muscle strength, and when smaller appetites may prevent adequate protein intake. A little bit of fish goes a long way in providing this vital nutrient.

What should I look for when buying FISH?

Take time to check where the fish has come from – much of what we eat in the UK is fished from across the globe. Try to choose sustainably farmed fish, and British when possible! The chalk rivers of Hampshire for example being shallow, fast flowing and highly oxygenated provide perfect conditions for our British Trout. You can read more about this at Chalk Stream Foods , suppliers of local, sustainably farmed Rainbow Trout, known for its high levels of Omega 3 and antioxidants. The Celtic Coast Fish Company take advice from the Marine Conservation Society on sourcing responsibly caught fish. The Marine Conservation Society even have an app to download that tells you how at risk the types of fish you can find in a supermarket are, and where they may have come from. It’s really worth a look and helps you to play your part in ensuring a better future for our seas!

Frankyln's Fish Farm is a family-run British Trout company in Hampshire and supporters of The Hampshire Fare . Franklyn's have been producing Rainbow and Brown Trout responsibly and sustainably since 1978 to re-stock lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and to supply their local customers. They even offer fun fishing lessons for children!

Trout can be enjoyed in so many ways - try with a quick and easy watercress and egg salad in this glorious British Summer!

What about supplements?

Research suggests the function of EPA to be far better when in its natural food source, fish. Indeed, a recently published study shows no beneficial effects on heart health from taking Omega 3 supplements. Buying fresh or frozen fish gives all the other beneficial nutrients too!

Be Brain-healthy with FISH!

I mentioned another type of Omega 3 in fish called DHA. It’s vital for the development of the brain - not surprising as the human brain is about 60% fat. Incidentally, a lot of this is DHA. Current research suggests a link between slowing the progression of Dementia and higher levels of DHA in the diet from fish.

Follow me on Instagram @lucywilliamsonnutrition for regular updates on easy ways to enjoy fish and other fabulous British food!

Reference: Calder PC (2017) Omega 3: The Good Oil. Nutrition Bulletin 42 132-140