A lean and tasty protein alternative
Health organisations around the world agree that for many of us, eating less red meat, and especially processed meat, can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
In the UK, figures from the most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveals that at least a fifth of the protein eaten by adults comes from red or processed meat. In contrast, just 8% of the protein in our diet comes from fish.
The World Cancer Research Fund say fish is a good alternative to processed and red meat, so when it comes to getting a protein hit, consider swapping meat for fish a couple of times each week.
Super when we’re working out
People who are training and exercising need more protein to build and maintain healthy muscles. Endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4g protein per kg of body weight each day, while strength athletes should aim for 1.2-1.7g protein per kg of body weight each day.
Muscle is not gained through eating protein alone it's gained through a combo of resistance exercises together with enough protein and carbohydrate in the diet. If you skip the carbs, then protein is used to provide energy instead of being used to build muscle; which is great news for fellow carb lovers.
It’s also a good idea to have a high-quality protein snack or meal within one to two hours of completing a work out. During exercise, muscle is usually broken down – having a protein-rich snack or meal post workout helps to repair any damage to the muscles, reduces soreness and enables us to go on to build stronger muscles. But for the best benefits, we should eat carb-rich foods at the same time.
To support a healthy weight
Ensuring muscles are strong helps to boost our metabolic rate – the rate at which the body burns calories. This means the more muscle we have, the more calories we burn, even when we’re resting – and this can help us reach and maintain a healthy weight.
While exercise helps to build muscle, protein also contributes to a growth in muscle mass. Plus fish – especially white fish and shellfish often contains fewer calories than many other animal sources of protein, which again can help with weight control.
Furthermore, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, foods that are high in protein help to make us feel fuller than foods that are high in fat or carbohydrates. This is because protein takes longer for the body to digest, which delays hunger so we eat less and find it easier to control our weight. Enjoying a protein-rich food at each meal is a great way to keep us fuller for longer. Fish is a great choice whatever the time of day, even breakfast – try kippers with wholegrain toast, a breakfast pot filled with spinach, tomato, avocado and tuna, or kedgeree made with mackerel.
Seafood is so handy for meal prep too. Chuck in some fish fillets, tinned tuna, sardines and mackerel and you’re done.
Protein plus… more good stuff
Seafood is low in saturated fat
It’s also important to look at what else protein is packaged with in foods – and that’s where fish really shines. Unlike many other animal sources of protein, most white fish and shellfish are low in fat and saturates.
Seafood is high in heart and brain boosting Omega-3
While oily fish contains more fat, most varieties tend to remain low in saturated fat. Instead, the fat is mainly in the form of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fats. Fish is the main naturally occurring source of two specific omega-3 fats – DHA and EPA that have been linked to good health. These help to keep the heart working normally, keep blood pressure normal and maintain blood triglyceride levels, another type of fat, which when raised increases the risk of heart disease.
Experts also agree that replacing some of the saturated fat in our diet with unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated fats can help to maintain normal cholesterol levels. Bottom line: fish is a great choice for boosting protein, whilst at the same time helping to keep the heart healthy.
DHA is also vital for keeping our brain functioning normally and helping us to maintain normal vision.
Seafood is if full sorts of 'Vitamin sea'
Another benefit to choosing fish more often to boost protein intakes is that it comes with a wide range of other vitamins and minerals. Amounts vary depending on the variety but most fish provide phosphorus, selenium and vitamin B12. White fish usually provide potassium and vitamins B3 and B6. Shellfish often contain copper, zinc and iodine. Boom!
Oily fish provides potassium and vitamins B3 and B6. Oily fish are also one of the few naturally rich food sources of vitamin D (eggs are the only other food that naturally provides good amounts of this nutrient). Vitamin D is needed for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth, as well as keeping the immune system working normally and the muscles functioning properly. Blood levels of this vitamin are low in a significant number of people in the UK, so eating more oil-rich fish can help to boost intakes.
How much protein to eat?
The Reference Intake for protein is 50g – this is a guideline on the amount most people should aim for each day to stay healthy. Fish can make a big contribution to this (together with providing omega-3 fats and a wide range of vitamins and minerals)! For example, a 140g portion of baked cod provides 33.5g protein – that’s two thirds of our daily needs. It’s another good reason to follow expert advice that recommends everyone has two servings of fish each week, one of which should be oily such as mackerel, sardines, herring, kippers, trout or salmon. A serving when cooked should weigh around 140g (equal to about 170g when raw).
Plus fresh, frozen and tinned is all good.
Would this content encourage you to consider eating seafood?