Health benefits of eating fish


Monday, January 21, 2019

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WHETHER you like it fresh from the sea, or you prefer the canned varieties such as tuna, sardines and mackerel, it's always a good catch when you choose to include fish in your diet. Fish tastes great, and is an amazing alternative to red meat for some folk, but the numerous health benefits of consuming it are sure to have you hooked.

Nutritionist Vanessa White-Barrow says that fish is a great choice of food to add to your diet, as it is lower in calories and saturated fat than red meat, while being the ultimate source of essential Omega-3 fatty acids.

“Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke,” she says. “They have also been shown to improve emotional well-being and help prevent certain cancers and vision problems and boost brain function.”

White-Barrow recommends that fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout be consumed twice per week.

“While all kinds of fish are rich in protein, iodine, and many vitamins and minerals, fatty fish are the ones that contain the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and fat-based nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamin D,” she notes.

Omega-3 fatty acids, she notes, is especially important for development.

“The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for developing brain and other organs, so pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should ensure they consume enough fatty fish,” she says.

She warns though, that some fish, especially the ones higher up on the food chain, contain high levels of mercury which can cause development problems for the foetus or baby, so pregnant women should stick to fish such as sardines, trout and salmon and limit their intake to about 12 ounces per week.

“Also avoid raw or undercooked fish, as they may contain harmful and parasitic microorganisms,” she says.

White-Barrow adds that regular consumption of fish also aids in improving memory, and reduces the risk of type 1 diabetes in children, as well as a form of autoimmune diabetes (type 1) in adults, as studies have concluded.

“Fish is the best natural source of Vitamin D,” she says, “This helps to regulate the levels of other minerals such as phosphate and calcium in the body, which promote healthy growth of strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone deformities and pain in both children and adults.”

Though some fish varieties that are touted for their health benefits are not widely available in Jamaica, canned versions of them are, and they are just as healthy, White-Barrow says.

“Both canned and fresh fish are viable sources of protein and other essential nutrients, and one isn't necessarily healthier than the other,” she says.

She warns, however, to be mindful of canned fish that is packaged in oil or brine, as these may contain excessive levels of salt and fat.

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