04 September 2012

Fishing for health

Eating fish will protect your heart and help you stay trim. We delve below the surface for the best fish choices and cooking methods.


Who doesn’t like fish and chips, liberally seasoned with salt and vinegar, wrapped in paper and eaten straight from the packet? As a guilty treat this takeaway is hard to beat, but there is so much more to fish.

(Picture: iStock)

For a start, fish is an excellent source of protein that also provides vitamins a and D, important minerals such as iron, calcium, iodine and phosphorus, and essential fatty acids. Size for size, a 200g portion of fish is lower in saturated fat, total fat and kilojoules than meat or chicken.

There has been much research highlighting the benefits of regular intake of fish. One American study showed that women who eat baked fish five times a week have a 30% lower risk of heart failure, while research by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary found that two servings of oily fish a week protect eyesight in people with retinitis pigmentosa. A lot of studies point to the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. These fats reduce inflammation in the arteries and lower blood pressure, in essence protecting against heart disease. omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to better brain function and improved memory. The best fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines, but eating any type of fish will benefit your heart.

The right technique

While fish itself is healthy, the method used to prepare it is just as important. Most dieticians recommend baking, grilling or steaming fish to get the most out of it. Research by the Feinberg School of medicine in Chicago showed that eating fried fish is linked to a higher danger of heart failure, with even one serving per week associated with a 48% greater risk. Another study found that you get more heart-healthy benefits from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish if you eat it baked or grilled instead of fried, dried or salted. Sauces rich in butter and cream also drown out the health benefits, so it is better to use low-fat yoghurt instead. it is quick and easy to prepare a healthy fish dish if you follow these tips:

Baking use a fish rub or marinate fillets in a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs. This method delivers a crunchy texture and is a great way to replace fried fish.

Grilling lightly; brush the fish with oil and cook away from the centre of the pan. Thick cuts of oily fish such as salmon are suited to this technique.

Stream rub the fish with herbs and spices before placing it in a steamer above a pot of boiling water. This is an excellent method for preparing white fish with delicate flesh.

Can pregnant women have fish?

Concern about the mercury levels in fish such as swordfish, marlin and tuna may be discouraging expectant mothers from eating fish. Mercury poses a danger to unborn babies as it can affect brain development and the nervous system.

But experts say that pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t cut fish out of their diet altogether. Fish remains the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for cognitive and motor skill development in babies.

Generally, dieticians agree that pregnant and new moms can eat most fish; however, they shouldn’t have more than four tins of tuna per week and no more than two servings of salmon, trout, mackerel or herring on a weekly basis.

(Health24, Amy Froneman for Jump magazine, August 2012)

Read More:

The catch-22 of eating fish

Fish boosts heart health in women


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