Can we eat fish sustainably and maintain health benefits?


AS many people try to improve their diet by cutting down on red meat, fish seems like a good healthy option.

However, the sustainability of eating fish has increasingly been called into question. Here, we investigate the health claims and arguments for and against eating fish and explore some alternatives.

Some people consider fish to be a healthy alternative to red meat. It is a good source of protein, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and several minerals and vitamins.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which, as research has shown, can have a positive effect on heart health, are present in high concentrations in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel.

Research indicates these fatty acids can also promote greater blood flow to the brain, which is vital for delivering oxygen essential for brain function. And one study has suggested that omega-3s may have a role in healthy brain agingTrusted Source.

Eating fish may also combat inflammation: a recent study found that regular consumption of fish helped reduce the incidence of chronic inflammatory conditions and may even benefit the immune systemTrusted Source.

Medical News Today spoke to Kate Cohen, Registered Dietician at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Nutrition of USC, to find out the science behind some of these claims.

“Fish and shellfish are the main sources in our diet of the polyunsaturated fats, DHA [docosahexaenoic acidTrusted Source] and EOA [eicosapentaenoic acid], which are associated with brain development in pregnancy and linked to a number of potential overall health benefits,” she said.

But not all fish are equal. “Cold-water fish have a higher amount of fat to keep the fish warm in icy waters, but this also loads the fish with beneficial omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,” she added.

However, there are some concerns about the high levels of mercuryTrusted Source in some of these cold-water fish.

Suitable options with high concentrations of beneficial fatty acids and low mercury levels are wild salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel.

And what of white fish and shellfish? Lower in calories than oily fish, they do not contain high levels of omega-3 but are a good source of lean protein and many minerals and vitamins, such as iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B12, and D.

Cohen recommended including fish in your diet 2–3 times a week to get the benefits, but advised that you “rotate your fish. Your body needs all the different vitamins and minerals available in fish, so don’t stick with just one kind.”

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