Fish is touted as the healthiest of animal proteins for humans. Whether you are controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol or managing diabetes, fish can be your go-to protein from the animal kingdom and rightly so. Fish is a low-fat, optimal quality protein, which is rich in health enhancing nutrients. Eating fish at least twice a week is recommended by all leading health bodies for protection against heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, blood pressure and even for brain health. Fish has been a part of traditional Indian diets of the coastal regions for centuries. It is easy to source and cook and can be fried, boiled, baked or roasted. It packs great flavour along with health benefits.
Nutrition In Fish: Here's What Makes Fish A Healthy Addition To Diet
Fish is a good source of protein with all nine amino acids present in it. Protein is required for almost every function of our body and is present in every cell. Having adequate protein ensures a healthy body, blood and immune system. Indian diets are particularly deficient in proteins except in areas where fish is easily available.
Unlike the other meats, fish is not high in saturated fats, and hence important for protecting us against non-communicable diseases. Since it is one of the richest sources of omega -3 fats, it helps offset the cholesterol risk. Omega -3 is one of the healthiest fats that protect us against heart diseases and stroke. It is also an essential fatty acid, which means that it is not manufactured in our body and we must get via our diet. It is associated with keeping the cholesterol levels down by lowering triglycerides and may also increase the good cholesterol or HDL. Omega -3 consists of Alpha-Linoleic Acid- ALA, Docosahexaenoic Acid- DHA, and Eicosapentaenoic Acid- EPA. Of these, DHA and EPA are the most important and that is why fish becomes an important part of a healthy diet. Omega-3 is also linked to improving immune function and decreasing inflammation in the body. People with arthritis and active lifestyles have found that consuming omega-3-rich foods help them manage pain and muscle fatigue better. Research has shown some benefits for depression, ADHD, Alzheimer's, dementia and diabetes as well. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring, and tuna are few of the recommended options.
Vitamin D is found in fish and has been associated with good bone health. It also protects against Type-1 diabetes, and cancers of the breast, colon, prostrate and oesophagus, according to new scientific evidence. Another vitamin present in good quantity in fish is Vitamin B2 Riboflavin, which is essential for overall good health. It not only promotes growth, but also helps the body breakdown carbohydrates to release energy and optimises the use of oxygen in the body.
In addition fish is a good source of a number of minerals that support health.
- Iron is needed to maintain the haemoglobin in our blood and also for a healthy gastrointestinal function, healthy immune system, and regulation of body temperature. Adequate dietary iron ensures a good energy level and prevents fatigue.
- Zinc, also present in fish is required for maintaining a healthy immune system. Needed in very small quantities, it is vital for our body as it helps stimulate the activity of over a hundred enzymes that are essential for our body to function.
- Iodine is critical for the development of a baby's brain during pregnancy. It helps in improving cognitive function in children and is also essential for maintaining good thyroid functions and preventing goitre.
- Magnesium is also a trace element required in small amounts by our body but its deficiency can play havoc. Magnesium is involved in the metabolism of calcium; it ensures that the calcium reaches the bones, and also activates Vitamin D. Magnesium is important for diabetics as it plays a crucial role in the metabolism of carbohydrates. It maintains the health of heart muscles and also the transmission of electric impulses. It is also associated with lowered risk for hypertension and atherosclerosis.
- Potassium: It is an essential nutrient that is present in all body fluids. It is required for efficient cell function. Low potassium may lead to high blood pressure, kidney stone risk , bone breakdown, calcium excretion in urine, and salt sensitivity. All meats are good sources of potassium and so is fish.
Fish is a healthy meat to eat and comes with amazing health benefits. Unlike red meats, it is not linked to ill health and is recommended as a part of a healthy diet to maintain good overall health.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.