Fish For Omega 3 770X600

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 and why it’s important to have enough in our diet.

If you want to eat more seafood in your diet check out our 28 Day Meal Plan which is full of ideas and simple tips to get you eating a healthy balanced diet in no time!

* Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2004) FICS/04/02 Published 14/4/04

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 recommends two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily.

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 three weeks*! To make sure you get enough, eat one serving a week from the following list of oily fish:

  • anchovies
  • fresh tuna
  • 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

* Public Health England (2014) National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 1-4 (combined) of the rolling programme (2008/2009 – 2011/12).

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**.

 * EFSA Journal 2011; 9 (4): 2078. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2078

** EFSA Journal 2009. DHA and support of the visual development of the unborn child and breastfed infant - Scientific substantiation of a health claim related to DHA and support of the visual development of the unborn child and breastfed infant pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 [1] doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2009.1006

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**. 

* EFSA Journal 2011; 9 (4): 2078. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2078

** EFSA Journal 2009. DHA and support of the cognitive development of the unborn child and breastfed infant - Scientific substantiation of a health claim related to DHA and support of the cognitive development of the unborn child and breastfed infant pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 [1] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2009.1007

Omega 3 Image 770X600

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*.

* National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) CG172. MI – secondary prevention: Secondary prevention in primary and secondary care for patients following a myocardial infarction. November 2013. 

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 around one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure, which is one of the main risk factors for stroke, a condition that accounts for seven percent of deaths in men and 10 percent in women**.

 * EFSA Journal 2010; 8 (10): 1796. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1796

** British Heart Foundation. Coronary Heart Disease Statistics: A Compendium of Health Statistics. 2012 Edition.

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**.

 * EFSA Journal 2010; 8 (10): 1796. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1796

** British Heart Foundation. Reducing your blood cholesterol.

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, herring and fresh tuna 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.