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Why You Should Eat More Oily Fish

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Why You Should Eat More Oily Fish

Oily fish are not only delicious, but also nutritious. They are fish that have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and cognitive decline. They can also support brain, eye, and skin health.

But what are oily fish, and how can you include them in your diet? In this article, we will introduce some of the best sources of oily fish, and share some recipes that use them.

What are Oily Fish?

Oily fish are fish that have oil in their tissues and in the belly cavity around the gut. They tend to be darker and richer in flavor than white fish, which have oil only in their liver. Oily fish are also higher in calories and fat, but most of the fat is healthy unsaturated fat, especially omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body cannot make on its own, so we need to get them from food. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plant sources, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans, while EPA and DHA are found in animal sources, especially oily fish.

EPA and DHA are more beneficial for human health than ALA, as they have stronger anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects. They can also be converted into other compounds that regulate blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, and gene expression. ALA, on the other hand, needs to be converted into EPA and DHA before it can be used by the body, and the conversion rate is very low.

According to the American Heart Association, adults should eat at least two servings of fish per week, preferably oily fish, to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. A serving is about 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked fish, or about three-quarters of a cup of flaked fish. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also eat fish, but avoid those that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.

What are the Best Sources of Oily Fish?

There are many types of oily fish, but some of the best ones are:

  • Salmon: This popular fish is rich in omega-3s, protein, vitamin D, and selenium. It can be cooked in various ways, such as baked, grilled, or poached. You can also enjoy salmon as sushi, sashimi, or smoked. A 100-gram portion of wild salmon provides 2,586 mg of omega-3.
  • Mackerel: This oily fish is also high in omega-3s, protein, vitamin B12, and niacin. It can be fresh, frozen, or canned, and it can be grilled, baked, or smoked. You can also make mackerel salads or sandwiches. A 100-gram portion of Atlantic mackerel provides 1,422 mg of omega-3.
  • Sardines: These small fish are packed with omega-3s, protein, calcium, and vitamin D. They are usually canned, but you can also find fresh sardines at some fish markets. They can be grilled, fried, baked, or smoked, and they go well with crackers, bread, or salads. A 100-gram can of sardines provides 1,692 mg of omega-3.
  • Herring: These fish are similar to sardines, but larger and more flavorful. They are also rich in omega-3s, protein, vitamin B12, and selenium. They are often pickled, smoked, or canned, but they can also be cooked fresh. They can be served as an appetizer, a main dish, or a snack. A 100-gram portion of Atlantic herring provides 2,217 mg of omega-3.
  • Anchovies: These tiny fish are very oily and salty, and they add a lot of flavor to dishes. They are also high in omega-3s, protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. They are usually canned or sold as a paste, but you can also find fresh anchovies at some fish markets. They can be grilled, fried, or used in sauces, salads, pizzas, or sandwiches. A 100-gram portion of anchovies provides 2,113 mg of omega-3.

Some other oily fish that are good sources of omega-3s are sablefish, trout, tuna, and whitefish. You can find more information about these and other fish on the American Heart Association website.

How to Cook Oily Fish

Oily fish are versatile and easy to cook. You can use different methods, such as baking, grilling, frying, poaching, or steaming, depending on your preference and the type of fish. You can also season them with herbs, spices, lemon, garlic, or other ingredients to enhance their flavor.

If you are looking for some recipes that use oily fish, here are some ideas:

  • Salmon and Asparagus Foil Packets: A simple and healthy way to cook salmon and asparagus in the oven or on the grill.
  • Mackerel and Potato Salad: A hearty and delicious salad that combines mackerel, potatoes, eggs, and greens.
  • Sardine Toasts with Tomato and Basil: A quick and easy appetizer or snack that features sardines, tomato, basil, and cheese on toasted bread.
  • Herring in Mustard Sauce: A classic Scandinavian dish that pairs herring with a creamy and tangy mustard sauce.
  • Anchovy and Garlic Spaghetti: A simple and flavorful pasta dish that uses anchovies, garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

Conclusion

Oily fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for human health. They can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and cognitive decline. They can also support brain, eye, and skin health. Oily fish are also high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and they are delicious and easy to cook. You should aim to eat at least two servings of oily fish per week, and try different types and recipes to enjoy their benefits.

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