Oily fish good for health

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Eating fish reduces the risk of various diseases including heart disease, diabetes, childhood asthma and prostate cancer, among other.

Fish is a staple diet of most Asians. In China, the average person eats more than 20kg of seafood a year, three times that of the consumption of Americans. Fish is indeed an excellent food and is an important part of a healthy diet. It is low in saturated fat, high in protein and unsaturated fat and rich source of fatty acids. About half of the human body’s dry weight is made up of protein and that includes brain cells, muscle, skin, hair and nails.

Among the many types of edible fish, oily cold-water fish like tuna, salmon mackerel, sardines, anchovies, pilchards and cod are well known for their health-giving properties due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids first came into prominence in the 1970s and researchers and nutritionists recommend eating two to three meals of fish a week to reduce the risk of diseases ranging from childhood asthma to prostate cancer.

Eating oily fish has been found to benefit the heart. It helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduce blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids in the fatty tissue of the fish are also anti-inflammatory with anti-blood clotting actions. Fish oils may also reduce the risks and symptoms for other disorders including diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, some cancers, and mental decline.

There are many healthy ways to enjoy fish. You could steam, grill, stir-fry, poach or eat it raw like sushi. Fish with darker flesh such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and herring contain more omega-3 fatty acids than white fish. Besides fish, other seafood such as scallops, calamari, trout, sea perch and squid are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, albeit in smaller quantities.

While it is good to eat fish, it is also wise to avoid those high in mercury levels. Excess mercury affects the nervous system, causing numb or tingling fingers, lips and toes.

It delays walking in an infant and talking in children. It causes muscle and joint pain as well as an increased risk of heart attack. If you enjoy catching and eating your own fish, don’t fish in polluted water. Bottom feeder species, such as catfish, may ingest more pollutants. Smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies are specially recommended for consumption because they naturally contain oils that are lower in heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic and environmental toxins ( e.g. pesticides, dioxin and PCBs ) than larger predatory fish such as tuna and cod. Pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and children up to six years of age should choose carefully the type of fish they eat.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

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