As well as offering a great variety of different flavours, textures and enjoyable eating experiences, the regular consumption of fish and shellfish can help to keep you in good health.
Fish and shellfish are low in calories and high in protein. This makes it the perfect food for dieters; high levels of protein keep you feeling fuller for longer, without the extra calories. Studies have even shown that people who eat seafood regularly are, on average, slimmer than people who don’t. And fish and shellfish are ‘health-foods’ in more ways than one; they are jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that help to keep our bodies in great shape – and many species are well-known as an excellent source of Omega-3, a very important fatty acid that the human body cannot produce on its own, and one that has been shown to have many health benefits.
Health experts recommend that we should try to eat at least two portions of seafood a week, one of which should be of an oil-rich nature, including such species as sardines, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, trout and salmon – species that are all rich in Omega-3.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3 is the name of a type of fat that is found in oil-rich fish. It comes from the family of ‘good’ fats that are not only beneficial for health but are essential in the diet. As mentioned, these fats cannot be made by the body, so a dietary supply is essential. Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats, which can be divided into two groups – short-chain and long-chain. The body is able to convert short-chain omega-3 fats, found in foods like flaxseed, rapeseed oil, walnuts and green, leafy veg, into long-chain omega-3s but this conversion process isn’t very efficient. In contrast, oil-rich fish such as the aforementioned species are naturally rich in long-chain omega-3 fats, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In particular, it is these ‘ready-made’ long-chain omega-3 fats in oil-rich fish that have been linked to various health benefits.
Why is Omega-3 good for you?
From healthy hearts to healthy minds, everyone can benefit from increasing their Omega-3 intake and thereby significantly reduce the chance of developing diseases such as cancer and heart disease. One of the main benefits of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA is the role they play in helping to keep the heart working normally. In particular, these fats help to maintain good levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, which when raised increases our risk of heart disease.
Omega-3 fats are also known to play a role in helping to maintain normal blood pressure – which is great news as around one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure, which is one of the main risk factors for suffering a ‘stroke’, a condition that accounts for seven percent of deaths in men and ten percent in women.
It also seems there’s some truth behind the old wives’ tale that ‘fish is good for the brain’. The long-chain Omega-3 fat DHA is proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal brain function. Meanwhile, it’s especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding mums to make sure they include a serving of oil-rich fish in their diet each week as it’s proven that DHA in a mother’s diet plays a key role in a baby’s brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
However, it’s not just our hearts and brains that can benefit from Omega-3 fats – DHA is also known to contribute to the maintenance of normal vision and again is especially important in the diets of mums-to-be and breastfeeding mothers where it plays a role in a baby’s normal eye development.
Where do I find Omega-3?
The recommendation to eat at least one portion of oil-rich fish – weighing around 140g when cooked – sounds easy to achieve but sadly, most of us don’t even come close to this. On average, we manage to eat just one portion of oil-rich fish every three weeks! To make sure you get enough, endeavour to eat one serving a week from the following list of oil-rich fish: anchovies, fresh tuna, herring, mackerel, pilchards, salmon, sardines, sprats, trout and whitebait.
You know it makes sense – put some Omega 3 on your plate today!