The Benefits of Eating Fish

Within many cultures, eating fish at Easter, particularly on Good Friday, has been a long tradition. This article will give you the lowdown on the best fish to eat and why. 

The aim here is to avoid that Aussie transition of deep fried fish and chips, and bring in some truly nourishing foods to celebrate this holiday season.

What’s good about fish?

Depending on how long you have, there is a fairly extensive list of benefits of eating fish - taste being the first and foremost. Fish are a high quality source of protein, contain vitamins B12 and D, and many essential minerals such as selenium, zinc and iodine. Why is that important? These are all essential cofactors to help your liver work efficiently, your mitochondria work, to improve detoxification, make energy and improve general wellbeing. 

Let’s chew the fat about fats in our fish

But if we were to cut to the chase, it's all about the healthy fats we find in our seafood. Primarily, I want to give you an easy to understand list of the benefits of these healthy fats.

In a nutshell, fish is high in those beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids. Keeping the ratios correct is so important for our health. Ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 should be equal. The risks of consuming too much omega 6 to omega 3 includes:

  • Inflammation 
  • Heart disease
  • Gut issues
  • Arthritis 
  • Allergies
  • Cognitive decline
  • Increased mental health issues 

The most common omega-3s found in our fish are EPA and DHA

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): found in oily fish, algae oil and krill. Your body needs high quantities of EPA for the benefits listed below.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): Found in oily fish, krill oil and algae oil. Your body converts some DHA molecules back to EPA in order to keep them at fairly equal levels if you consume more DHA.

How EPA and DHA improve health:

  • Can promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
  • Can improve inflammation - omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines
  • Can improve autoimmune disease 
  • Can fight depression and anxiety - the research indicates EPA to be the best at fighting depression
  • Can improve eye health
  • Can improve risk factors for heart disease
  • Can reduce symptoms of ADHD in children - research shows children on the spectrum have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Quality prescription only fish oil supplement improves ADHD 
  • Can reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome - they improve insulin resistance, diabetes, inflammation and heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome

Types of fish to eat

  • Small fish such as sardines, mackerel, kippers and anchovy are ideal and contain those beautiful, beneficial fats. 
  • Fatty wild-caught fish like salmon and quality locally caught white flesh fish like whiting and bream. 
  • If you are considering canned or shelf stable fish in your diet, source a good quality fish such as the Good Fish or Paramount Salmon 

What about the ethics of eating fish?

This is such an important issue. We need our fish to be sustainable. Our oceans are being fished down to critical levels, but at the same time, farmed fish are often fed a diet that compromises the ratio of beneficial and inflammatory fats. 

Do your research and find a fish that is:

  • Wild caught
  • Sustainably fished
  • Local - this is a really important point as the food miles associated with importing fish, and the compromise in freshness contributes its own set of problems. Go to your local market and source locally caught fish - there's nothing better!

Other fishy business about fish

Avoiding farmed fish is important, seek out wild caught fish, but also ensure the water quality where the fishing is done eg. no catfish caught in the Ganges river. 

We also need to be aware of mercury in our fish. Larger fish accumulate mercury over time and this can create quite a risk for our health. Mercury will depend on their age, the water quality and the food they eat. Fish with higher levels of mercury include shark (flake), broadbill (swordfish), marlin, orange roughy (deep sea perch) and catfish. Watch out for these species in frozen foods, takeaway foods and random fishy fry ups that do not specify the species and sourcing. Risk of mercury intake includes supplements!

Knowing what is safe will take some research. Tuna in tins may contain less mercury than fresh tuna as smaller tuna are used for canning. This is another instance where checking the water source is important. For example, Queensland government recommend not consuming fish caught in the Hinze Dam on the Gold Coast as they have elevated levels of naturally occurring mercury (QLD Health).

If you are concerned about your mercury levels, we can offer testing through our clinic.