Fish is a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals, and a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help to protect against a range of diseases, from cancer to heart disease, depression to arthritis.
Six benefits of eating fish
1. It can help to fight heart disease
No wonder the Government wants us all to eat more, with the Food Standards Agency recommending at least two portions a week of fresh, frozen, or tinned seafood (one of them of oily fish).
The British Heart Foundation says eating oily fish can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your chances of survival following a heart attack. Fish does this by lowering levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood - raised levels are associated with heart disease. Fish oils also appear to help reduce blood clotting and abnormal heart rhythms after a heart attack.
2. It can lower the risk of Alzheimer's
Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in many fish may prevent damage to brain cells. Eating fish can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is linked with dementia. A French study of 2000 people showed that those who ate seafood at least once a week had a significantly lower risk of dementia over a seven-year period than those who didn't.
3. It has cancer-fighting properties
A Swedish study of 6000 men over a 30-year period showed that those who didn't eat any fish had between double and treble the risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to those who ate moderate or large amounts. Shellfish, such as crab and lobster, also contains selenium, thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
4. It can ease depression
It's been reported that fish can help to ease depression. Again, it's down to omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to raise levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
5. It can reduce and relieve arthritis
Population groups that eat a lot of fish - Inuits in Greenland, for example - have low rates of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Studies have also shown fish oils to be useful in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
6. It is good for your skin
According to dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, author of The Perricone Prescription, a salmon-packed diet can help smooth out age lines.
Which fish should you eat to get the most health benefits?
- White fish, like cod, are a good source of low-fat protein and minerals.
- Oily fish, such as sardines, pilchards, salmon and mackerel, have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Crab, lobster and mussels come into the shellfish group and contain selenium - thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
What about fish oil supplements?
The advice and research around the benefits of getting your fish oils through a supplement is very mixed.
Recent studies have suggested that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids could be linked to the risk of prostate cancer. There is also little evidence that supplements are effective at preventing disease and illness.
Current NHS guidance advises adults to eat two portions of fish a week, one of them oily, as part of a healthy balanced diet. It also recommends consulting your GP or a healthcare professional before taking omega-3 supplements.