How To Introduce More Fish Into Your Diet (And Why You Should)

21/03/2016 7:34 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Cooking sandwiches with salmon on the wooden table top view


Guys, be honest. Do you have two to three servings of fish (including oily fish) a week?

Accredited practicing dietitian Joel Feren suspects not. And he would know. As the principal dietitian at Hearty Nutrition, Feren has enough male clients to conclude "from what I see in private practice, men certainly don’t eat enough fish."

"The Australian Heart Foundation actually recommends two serves (of 250 grams) of fatty fish per week," Feren told The Huffington Post Australia. "Just talking anecdotally here, from my experience, I would suggest a lot of men don't meet those recommendations. In fact, I imagine a lot of men would fall well and truly short."

Which is a real shame, especially considering all the health benefits a fishy diet has to offer, particularly when it comes to the heart.

"153 men have a heart attack every single day in Australia," Feren said. "Three times as many men die from coronary heart diseases than prostate cancer. I think we tend to think of [prostate cancer] as the big 'thing' killing men, but it’s really heart disease.

"That's where a diet containing fish can actually help. While all fats are certainly not created equal, fatty fish is famed for its omega 3 content, and it's this particular fatty acid which can help to improve heart rate, decrease the plaque in arteries, reduce inflammation and increase the good cholesterol floating around in the bloodstream."

It is a sentiment echoed by Sydney City Nutritionist Jennifer May.

"In terms of the essential fatty acids found in fish, they have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes," May told HuffPost Australia.

"They tend to keep red blood cells a bit more flexible, so they don’t tend to get stuck in places, don’t overlap, don’t attach to each other.

"They flow freely, and their flexibility means they can flow through capillaries very easily."

heart attack

According to both Feren and May, the benefits don't stop there.

"There are also some real benefits for mental health," Feren said. "Not only has omega 3 been shown to be involved in the production of what I call the 'happy hormones', serotonin and dopamine, there is also emerging evidence it supports brain health in general, including a lower risk of dementia in people who eat fish more regularly."

"Fish is also quite a good source of iodine," added May, "which is an essential nutrient for thyroid health.

"This can be particularly beneficial for men struggling to maintain their muscle mass or who are accumulating a lot of body fat.

"Basically, if we don’t have enough iodine, we don’t have enough available to produce our thyroid hormone, which can lead to poor thyroid health.

"Fish -- or anything that comes from the ocean, really -- is one of the only really good sources of iodine. That is a really important factor."

The fact omega 3 is also said to benefit eyes and vision as well as reduce inflammation in the body suggests the stuff is really, really good for you. But how can you incorporate it into your diet without feeling like you have to go to the fish markets every day?

"Tinned fish is extremely versatile. You can easily add it to pasta and salads as well as sandwiches," Feren said. "It couldn't be simpler. Just drain a tin of tuna, add it to your sandwich and Bob’s your uncle.

"Another thing you can do is replace bacon with smoked salmon as a side to your weekly brunch with eggs.

"Homemade fish and chips is a good option, rather than going to the fish and chip joint -- which I actually don't have a problem with, as I believe everyone should be able to enjoy their favourite foods occasionally -- but to prepare a pan fried or oven baked fish with oven-baked chips can be a great alternative.

"I think there is a perception out there that fish is hard to cook. But I think it’s actually really easy. Add some herbs or various spices and you can bake it, shallow fry it in the pan, or throw it on the barbecue. It actually doesn't take a lot of skill."

Need another reason to jump on the fish bandwagon? Use Good Friday as an excuse and give some of these Easter seafood recipes a whirl.

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