We all know that fish is a great food source for humans. It is rich in proteins, full of vitamins and minerals, and our easiest source of wild foods. After all, you can corral fish, but you can’t put them into actual cages and deprive them of their natural environment, like we do with many other farmed animals. And this relatively natural life adds up to a relatively natural, healthy food.
Something all of us also know, but may find hard to understand, is that whereas with mammals and birds we are told to avoid the fattiest versions, and for good reason, with fish we are told to go for the oiliest, fattiest options around. They are apparently good for our health. But how are they good for us?
Believe it or not, the fats in fish have the complete opposite effect on our bodies as the fats in land animals. This is probably because land animals follow very unnatural lives, which means the fats they grow are full of junk and stress hormones, much like the excess fat on the human body. Fish, on the other hand, lead fairly natural lives, resulting in their bodies being loaded with omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are the holy grail of healthy fats. In fish they occur in the form of EPA and DHA, two fatty acids acknowledged by the FDA for their ability to improve our health. They are a great antioxidant, which means that when we eat them our cells are given an opportunity to heal from all the stresses which simple everyday living forces on us. This will improve our appearance massively, resulting in fuller, tighter skin, brighter eyes, and stronger hair. But it also works its magic from the inside, improving how our organs work and making us feel better, boosting our immune systems, and improving how we digest food.
Another amazing benefit of omega 3 fatty acids are their effects on our blood cholesterol. Triglycerides are a type of fat that occurs in our blood when we are stressed or when we are suffering from inflammation and damage to the arteries. Low density cholesterol also appears when our arteries are damaged, and sticks to their walls, causing potential blockages when it fails to move. High density cholesterol, on the other hand, keeps our arteries clean and is considered the good cholesterol. When we eat omega 3 fatty acids our triglycerides and low density cholesterol drop by up to 30%. On the other hand, our high density cholesterol spikes up. This makes omega 3 fatty acids an essential tool in preventing and fighting heart disease and strokes.
Fatty fish aren’t hard to get into our diets at all. Not only are they some of the healthiest fish to eat, they are also the tastiest and often the cheapest. If you are looking for great taste, salmon and tuna steaks are great ways of adding some omega 3 into your diet without sacrificing a delicious meal. Or if you are worried about your budget, tinned sardines, mackerel, and tuna are all rich in omega 3, but won’t break the bank. What is more, tinned fish is loaded with digestible calcium in the form of softened fish bones, so that’s double the nutrition!
How much you eat and how you prepare them matters. For starters, if you are eating a darker fish like salmon or tuna, it will have a gram of omega 3 fatty acids per three ounces, whereas you need three and a half ounces of white fish to get the same benefits. Three ounces a day, every day, or three seven ounce portions a week, are good plans for eating as much omega 3 as possible. And beware of overcooking it. Do not deep fry your fish in vegetable oils, or overcook it at all. When choosing tinned fish, choose them in brine, tomato, or olive oil rather than sunflower oil. And where possible, eat minimally cooked or raw (sashimi grade) fish, for the most benefits.
Above all, make sure you are consistent with your diet. Eat as much fish as you can comfortably eat. Don’t overdo it, or you may put yourself off!