Seafood Omega Three Health Benefits

Seafood for omega-3

When it comes to staying healthy, there’s one food we should all be eating more of – and that’s fish! Health experts recommend everyone should enjoy at least two servings of fish a week, one of which should be an oil-rich variety such as sardines, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, trout or salmon.

Part of a balanced, nutritious diet

One of the reasons we should include oily fish as part of a balanced, nutritious diet is because they contain omega-3 fats – and these have been shown to have many health benefits. Here, registered dietitian and nutritionist Juliette Kellow reveals everything you need to know about omega-3 fats, including why it’s important to have enough in our diet…

Understanding the science bit

Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats, which can be divided into two groups – short-chain and long-chain. The body is able to convert short-chain omega-3 fats, found in foods like flaxseed, rapeseed oil, walnuts and green, leafy veg, into long-chain omega-3s but this conversion process isn’t very efficient. In contrast, oil-rich fish such as mackerel, salmon, pilchards, sardines, trout, kippers and herring are naturally rich in long-chain omega-3 fats, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In particular, it’s these ‘ready-made’ long-chain omega-3 fats in oily fish that have been linked to various health benefits.

Love your heart

One of the main benefits of the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA is the role they play in helping to keep the heart working normally. In particular, these fats help to maintain blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, which when raised increases our risk of heart disease.

Take the pressure down

Omega-3 fats are known to play a role in helping to maintain normal blood pressure. That’s great news as almost one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure,  a condition that triples a person’s chance of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Enjoy a taste of the Med

Advice from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people who’ve had a heart attack should eat a Mediterranean-style diet that includes more fish, bread, fruit and veg, less meat and replaces animal fats like butter and cheese with products based on plant oils.

Boost your brain power

It seems there’s some truth behind the old wives’ tale that ‘fish is good for the brain’. The long-chain omega-3 fat DHA found naturally in oily fish is proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal brain function. Meanwhile, it’s especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding mums to make sure they include a serving of oily fish in their diet each week as it’s proven that DHA in a mother’s diet plays a role in a baby’s brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Open your eyes…

It’s not just our heart and brain that benefits from omega-3 fats. DHA is also known to contribute to the maintenance of normal vision and again is especially important in the diets of mums-to-be and breastfeeding mothers where it plays a role in a baby’s normal eye development.

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Enjoy a taste of the Med

Advice from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people who’ve had a heart attack should eat a Mediterranean-style diet that includes more fish, bread, fruit and veg, less meat and replaces animal fats like butter and cheese with products based on plant oils.

Boost your brain power

It seems there’s some truth behind the old wives’ tale that ‘fish is good for the brain’. The long-chain omega-3 fat DHA found naturally in oily fish is proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal brain function. Meanwhile, it’s especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding mums to make sure they include a serving of oily fish in their diet each week as it’s proven that DHA in a mother’s diet plays a role in a baby’s brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Open your eyes…

It’s not just our heart and brain that benefits from omega-3 fats. DHA is also known to contribute to the maintenance of normal vision and again is especially important in the diets of mums-to-be and breastfeeding mothers where it plays a role in a baby’s normal eye development.

…then seafood – and eat it!

The recommendation to eat at least one portion of oily fish – weighing around 140g when it’s cooked – sounds easy to achieve. But sadly, most of us don’t even come close to this. On average, we manage to eat just one portion of oil-rich fish every two to three weeks! To make sure you get enough, eat one serving a week from the following list of oily fish:

  • anchovies
  • herring (bloater, kipper and hilsa are types of herring)
  • jack (also known as scad, horse mackerel and trevally)
  • mackerel
  • pilchards
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • sprats
  • trout
  • whitebait

 Enjoy the catch of the day 

While oily fish are fantastic sources of the long-chain omega-3 fats, white fish and shellfish can also help to boost intakes. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends 450mg long-chain omega-3 fats a day for good health. Because many people don’t eat fish every day, it’s more practical to turn this into a weekly amount. This works out at 3,150mg of long-chain omega-3 fats a week. Fortunately, you don’t have to do any maths to work out how much you’re having. All you need to do is eat two portions of fish a week, including one oily variety – that way you’ll get enough long-chain omega-3 fats in your diet.