Fabulous fish

Barbara Wilson
Nutritionist

Do you get enough fish in your diet? Fish consumption has fallen dramatically over the years – almost 50% in the last 50 years and it is thought that this could be detrimental to our health.

Fish makes a great healthy alternative to red meat or poultry. It’s full of vitamins, especially vitamin E and the B vitamins, minerals including selenium and zinc, as well as high quality protein. In Mediterranean countries, fish is eaten in abundance and a Mediterranean style diet has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and strokes, as well as increasing longevity.

White fish such as cod, plaice and haddock are very low in fat and low in calories. These contain as little as 0.6g fat and 83 cals per 100g of fish and around 19g protein per 100g of fish, perfect for any diet plan. White fish tends to be mild in flavour and is suitable for use in a wide variety of dishes.

Oily fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel are also relatively low in fat, with content ranging from 4g to 17g fat per 100g of fish. The fats found in oily fish are ‘good’ fats which can offer a huge number of health benefits. Oily fish contain large amounts of the essential Omega-3 fatty acids.

These fatty acids can reduce our risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lowering blood pressure and reducing the incidence of blood clotting. Our brains, which are made of 60% fat, are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and it has been suggested that increasing intake of these essential fatty acids can improve learning ability.

Research has shown that individuals from countries with high oily fish consumption such as Japan have IQ scores an average 6 points higher than their counterparts in the US.

Pregnant women should try to incorporate oil-rich fish into their diet as fish oils can help their unborn child develop healthily. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the weight of the baby and can prevent premature births. But the benefits don't stop there!

There is evidence that premature babies fed on their mother's milk, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have a higher IQ, visual acuity and manual dexterity than premature babies fed on formula milk substitute, which doesn't contain them.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to strengthen hair, bones and teeth and help the vascular and central nervous systems to develop properly. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to have protective or healing effects in autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and can help prevent cancer.

Try to incorporate at least two portions of fresh fish into your diet every week. How about this quick and tasty trout recipe? Serve with cous cous or boiled new potatoes if you can’t get hold of Bulgar wheat, add your favourite herbs or a spoonful of toasted almonds for a more traditional dish.

Baked trout with tabouleh

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Put 75g of Bulgar wheat into a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Finely chop 2-3cm of cucumber, 2 spring onions, a tomato and a small bunch of mint. Grate the rind from a lemon and squeeze the juice.

Wash and dry 4 whole trout and season with black pepper. Drain the Bulgar wheat and mix with chopped vegetables, mint, lemon rind and black pepper and use to stuff the trout. Place the fish into a shallow baking dish, top with a bay leaf each and pour over the lemon juice. Bake for 15 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Serve with more lemon wedges and a tossed green salad.

Makes 4 servings. Nutritional information: 324 calories, 9g fat, 15.3g carbs and 2.7mg zinc per serving.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.