The old adage that “fish is brain food” is true. Not only is fish delicious, it is good for you. Fish is a very important part of a healthy diet and many studies support this conclusion. In one study, scientists looked at fish consumption as it relates to mental decline. Those who did not eat fish had a decline 4 times the rate of those eating fish twice a week or more.
Studies have also shown that fish contains low-fat, high-protein powerhouse packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Fish offers a wide range of health benefits, from keeping your brain and heart functioning properly to helping ease symptoms of depression, and even keeping your skin and hair looking radiant.
Unfortunately not all Nigerians heed the advice of health experts on regular intake of fish. For some, eating fish has become a tall order especially the man on the street, as the prices of food items keep skyrocketing by the day due to the downturn in the country’s economy. For others, it is far beyond the cost, they simply do not like fish or have issues about how to prepare or cook fish. A friend once told me that he does not simply like the smell of fish, and so he would rather prefer poultry foods. But for most fish lovers, there is no better alternative. They will tell you that they prefer eating fish, no matter the economic situation in the country.
The downside of fish
While studies have shown that eating fish is good, concerns have been raised in recent years about chemicals found in fish due to environmental pollution, including mercury, PCBs and dioxins. But researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) tackled that question by undertaking the single most comprehensive analysis to date of fish and health.
In the first review to combine the evidence for major health effects of omega-3 fatty acids, major health risks of mercury, and major health risks of PCBs and dioxins in both adults and infants/young children, the results show that the benefits of eating a modest amount of fish per week – about 3 ounces of farmed salmon or 6 ounces of mackerel reduced the risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD) by 36%. Also notably, by combining results of randomised clinical trials, the investigators also demonstrated that intake of fish or fish oil reduces total mortality deaths from any causes by 17%.
However in the midst of this risks, scientists and researchers say that the health benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks. “Overall, for major health outcomes among adults, the benefits of eating fish greatly outweigh the risks,” Dariush Mozaffarian, lead author of the study and an instructor in epidemiology at Brigham said.
Health benefits of eating fish include the following:
It helps to reduce cardiovascular risks
Recent studies have shown that eating fish regularly helps to fight various diseases. The omega-3 fats in fish protect the heart against the development of erratic and potentially deadly cardiac rhythm disturbances. According to Marcy Kirshenbaum, a clinical nutritionist with Enhance Nutrition LLC in Northbrook, “Fish has anti-inflammatory benefits. Population studies have demonstrated that people who eat omega-3 rich diets have reduced cardiovascular risks including lower LDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and lower blood pressure.”
Fish is the only good dietary source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has received a lot of mainstream attention in recent years. This important vitamin actually functions like a steroid hormone in the body. Fish and fish products are the best dietary sources of vitamin D, by far. Fatty fish like salmon and herring contain the highest amounts. A single 4 ounce (113 gram) serving of cooked salmon contains around 100% of the recommended intake of vitamin D.
Fish Is High in Important Nutrients
Generally speaking, all types of fish are good for you. They are high in many nutrients that most people are not getting enough of. This includes high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals. However, some fish are better than others, and the fatty types of fish are considered the healthiest.
Scientists have pointed out that it is important for pregnant women to eat fish in moderation, and make sure they are choosing fatty fish low in mercury and other harmful substances. It has also been revealed by research that the mother is the sole source of omega-3 fats for the developing foetus and exclusively breast-fed infant, and the best direct source for the mom comes from eating fish and seafood.
Fish May Improve Sleep Quality
There is preliminary evidence that eating fatty fish like salmon may lead to improved sleep.