I’ve been vegetarian since I was fifteen, but over the last few years I started to eat fish again. I grew up eating a lot of fish, but it’s something that doesn’t feature in our diet quite as much as it ought to.
According to the NHS, we should be eating two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish. There are even some who say we should eat fish every day and that it is in fact better for us to eat fish everyday than it is to eat beef.
But a lot of us, just don’t. And we really should.
As well as being a relatively more sustainable industry, with better practices respecting marine ecosystems and maintaining a healthy balance of fish in the sea, fish are also rich in variety. From shellfish, crustaceans, oily fish, white fish, the lot. There are loads of ways to cook fish, as well as frying, from steaming, baking and grilling. And fish are an incredibly beneficial sources of loads of vitamins and minerals.
- Lowers risk of heart disease and heart failure.
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Lowers symptoms of depression.
- Improves eye health and vision.
- Aids in better sleeping.
- Helps to lower cholesterol.
- Contains Vitamin D: Oily fish are a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D keeps our bones, teeth and muscles healthy by regulating calcium and phosphate in our bodies.
- Omega 3: You might have seen bottles of fish oil omega 3 for sale here and there, but why not get it direct from the source? Fish (particularly oily fish) contains long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, which can help to prevent heart disease. It is especially useful for pregnant women, as it can help to develop the baby’s nervous system.
- Low in Fat: Fish are lower in fat than red or processed meat, making them a much healthier alternative.
- Sources of zinc, iodine, copper and selenium: Shellfish are loaded with these minerals that amongst them, have the benefits of antioxidants, reducing heart disease, boosting immune functions, improving cognitive functions and maintaining healthy blood and bones.
How Much Fish?
If you are pregnant, you need to be careful about how much fish you consume. Oily fish, such as sardines, herring, mackerel and trout, should not be in eaten in more than two portions a week by girls (pre-menopausal), pregnant and breastfeeding women, and anyone who plans to one day be pregnant. This is because oily fish can contain pollutants that build up in the body and can hinder future developments of a baby in the womb. One portion a week, all good and dandy.
When it comes to white fish, the world is your oyster (do you see what I did?), and you can eat as much of it as you like. Some of the oiler kinds, like sea bass or bream, you should avoid eating too often, but cod, haddock and plaice are all good to go.
Now, most of us don’t eat shark, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Shark, swordfish and marlin contain more mercury than other fish, so should be avoided by pregnant women and no adult should eat more than one portion a week. Seems a bit weird, given as to I don’t know anyone who would eat shark a few days in a row, but I’ve said it now, so there you go.
Shellfish seems to be the scariest of all the fishy foods out there. Maybe you know someone who had a bad time with clams or some dodgy shrimp, but so long as it’s fresh and properly prepared, shellfish is a good’un. Apart from brown crab meat (which can be oily), there isn’t any particular restrictions on how much shellfish you can eat.
There are more guidelines for eating fish whilst pregnant, but for everyone else, we should be incorporating more fish into our diets on a weekly basis.
With depleting numbers of marine life, overfishing and sea pollution has had a negative effect on our fish. Make sure you eat as locally as you can, fresh and from sustainable sources. Try eating the less popular, overfished options (like cod), and believe or not, in season.
Fish seasonality is not about the climate, as we might think of with vegetables or fruits, but is about when we ‘harvest’ fish. Fishing during the spawning season can lead to diminished numbers, so buying locally and within the right season ensures, not only a better quality of fish for you, but less of a harmful impact upon the numbers of fish and the ecosystems they inhabit.