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Extremely rich in protein, fish is a prominent seafood and a delicacy in the world. In fact, about one-sixth of the world protein comes from fish. It has been consumed by humans since ancient times and it is a staple food in many cultures. The entire fish including its head is consumable. So, many different types of fish based dishes can be found in the world cuisine.  While some recipes like sushi ask for raw fish, fish are also steamed, grilled and fried in various dishes. Fish and chips are probably one of the most common dishes in English cuisine.

Apart from being a rich source of protein, it is an excellent source of omega 3-fatty acid and vitamin D. Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain types of fish are very beneficial in the proper functioning of the heart and mental development. The fat content in the fish usually depends on the type of fish. Nonetheless, regular consumption of fish is considered very beneficial for hair, brain, and body. 

Fish oil is separately consumed for its health building properties and fish are kept in aquariums, ponds, and lakes for their aesthetic purposes. In spite of its multiple uses, the main usage of fish continues to be as a delicacy. 

Did you know?

Not only are these aquatic animals ancient they also hold a significant mythological in many religions. While fish symbolised Enki, the Sumerian God of water, they were also considered sacred by the Syrian Goddess, Atargati. The Greek word for fish makes an acronyms reference to Jesus Christ and hence ancient Christians used the symbol of fish to represent Jesus Christ. Fish also has been given a lot of significance in Hawaiian and Muslim cultures. Mesopotamians and certain sections in Hindu culture also use fish as an offering during prayers and festivities.

Some basic facts about fish:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Classes of fish: cartilaginous and bony
  • Common Types of fish: Salmon, Sardine, Cod, Perch, Halibut, Trout, Tilapia, Carp, Tetra, Billfish etc.
  • Uses of fish: Eating, Massage therapy, Aquariums
  • Evolution of fish: Evolved about 530 million years ago. They were first represented in the fossil record by Silurian as two groups of fish: armoured fish and the Acanthodii.
  • Interesting fact: Some fish live in salt water such as halibut and cod. They live in oceans and seas. Freshwater fish such as trout and catfish live in lakes and rivers.
  1. Fish nutrition facts
  2. Health benefits of eating fish
  3. Side effects of eating fish
  4. Takeaway

Fish is loaded with several nutrients. Certain types of fish are rich in long chain Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish are also a rich source of calcium and phosphorus and also several types of minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.

Fish are of two types: Oily fish and non-oily fish.

Oily fish are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which help to reduce the risks of heart diseases. Examples of oily fish are - salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, kipper, tuna (fresh not canned), hilsa, swordfish, carp, eel, etc.

Non-oily fish is a fish with more white meat and contains only 2% fat by weight. Examples of non-oily fish are - cod, haddock, Pomfret, plaice, lemon cole, cole, tinned tuna, sea bass, etc.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of raw Atlantic Salmon (oily fish) contains the following values:

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 68.5 g
Energy 142 kcal
Protein 19.84 g
Fats 6.34 g
Minerals  
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 0.80 mg
Magnesium 29 mg
Phosphorus 200 mg
Potassium 490 mg
Sodium 44 mg
Zinc 0.64 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin B1 0.226 mg
Vitamin B2 0.380 mg
Vitamin B3 7.86 mg
Vitamin B9 0.818 mg
Vitamin B-9 25  µg
Vitamin B-12 0.96 mg
Vitamin A 12 mg
Vitamin E 3.92 mg
Fats/ Fatty acids  
Unsaturated 0.981 g
Monounsaturated 2.103 g
Polyunsaturated 2.539 g
Cholesterol 55 mg

(Read more: Vitamin B-complex food sources)

Almost all types of fish are rich in nutrients. They possess proteins, vitamins, and minerals in abundance. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna etc. are higher in fat based nutrient and thus prove to be more beneficial for the body as compared to the others. Fatty fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acid which is very optimal for body and brain and reduces the risk of many diseases specifically cardiovascular disorders. Let us explore some health benefits you can reap by consuming fish regularly.

  • Beneficial for heart: Fishes, especially salty fishes are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be helpful in promoting heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Though more studies are still needed to confirm the benefits of fish for heart patients.
  • Reduces the risk of stroke: The omega-3 fatty acids present in fishes help improve blood circulation and prevent the formation of blood clots in brain thus being helpful in reducing the risk of strokes.
  • Protects and improves vision: Studies indicate that regular consumption of fish reduces the chances of vision loss by 4%. It is also been found to be helpful in preventing macular degeneration of eyes and improving the overall health of eye.
  • Reduces arthritis symptoms: Fish consumption is suggested to reduce and prevent inflammation in bones, which is responsible for joint pain and swelling in arthritis. It also increases bone density in arthritis patients, reducing the risk of fractures.
  • Promotes foetal brain development: Since they are a good source of unsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, fish consumption promotes the development of foetal brain when taken by expecting mothers. Children of such women who consumed fish during their gestation period have also been reported to exhibit higher cognitive abilities later in life.
  1. Fish reduces risk of stroke
  2. Fish benefits for pregnant women
  3. Fish benefits for bones
  4. Fish benefits for eyes
  5. Fish benefits for arthritic patients
  6. Fish benefits for heart

Fish reduces risk of stroke

Stroke is a major cause of disability, dementia, and death. It is a result of either blockage or leakage of blood vessels leading to a reduction of the blood supply to the brain tissue. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and it is a good source of protein and antioxidant vitamins. It reduces the risk of arterial blockage along with improving the circulation of blood in the body thus diminishing the chances of stroke. According to a meta-analysis, consuming fish 1 to 3 times a month can significantly reduce the risk of stroke.

Fish benefits for pregnant women

A foetus gets most of its nutrition from the mother. So, the diet of pregnant women plays a great role in the prenatal development of the foetus. The diet of a breastfeeding woman also decides the brain development of the newborn. Since Omega-3 fatty acids are said to be very beneficial for cognitive development in humans, various studies have been done to test the relevance of fish intake during pregnancy and development of cognition in newborns. A study reports that consumption of fish during pregnancy lead to a better brain development in the foetus. The children of such women also demonstrated higher cognitive functions.

Fish benefits for bones

Vitamin D is very essential for the body especially in childhood and in old ages. It is essential to keep the bones and muscles healthy. Deficiency of vitamin D can cause various diseases like osteoporosis. In the absence of sunlight, the body requires 1000 IU vitamin D per day to maintain good health. Fishes are a rich source of vitamin D. Consuming fish oil tablets each day helps in building and maintaining bone health.

Fish benefits for eyes

Due to the presence of Omega-3 fatty acid in fish, it helps in protecting as well as improving vision in the early years. People who consume fish in their early ages have fewer chances of losing their eyesight as compared to those who do not consume. In fact, a study showed that consumption of fish reduces the risk of losing eyesight by 4 %. Eating fish twice a week or more when compared with eating it less than once a month was linked to a drop in the risk of early and late macular degeneration.

Fish benefits for arthritic patients

Arthritis is a debilitating disease, commonly associated with inflamed and painful joints. It may also cause wasting away of the bone tissue leading to weaker bones which are easily prone to injury and damage. Studies suggest that fish oil can increase bone density. Besides, Omega-3 fatty acids, one of the main constituents of fish, help prevent inflammation. Hence, regular consumption of fish can keep arthritis at bay.

(Read more: Arthritis types)

Fish benefits for heart

Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which is considered very good for the health of the heart. It has been reported to reduce the triglyceride levels in the body which are one of the contributing factors in the development of cardiovascular diseases.

According to a meta-analysis published in a peer review journal, regular consumption of fish may improve cardiovascular health. Though the results are inconsistent and more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of fish for heart patients.

(Read more: Heart disease prevention)

Consumption of fish offers a number of health benefits and aids overall physical and psychological development. However, over-consumption might also result in health concerns.

  • High Amount of fish may lead to High blood sugar
    Consumption of high amount of Omega-3 fatty acid could increase the blood sugar level of people with diabetes. Large doses of Omega-3 fatty acid stimulate the production of sugars which results in high blood sugar levels. According to research conducted in 2016, patients receiving fish oil for more than 6 months had a modest increase in sugar levels.

  • Allergies due to fish
    Some people may be naturally allergic to certain kinds of fish.

  • Fish can be toxic
    Some fish may be contaminated with toxins such as mercury. Frequent intake of contaminated fish can lead to seizures and brain damage in children.

  • Choking on fish
    Although it is just accidental but worth mentioning that many fatal incidents occur due to choking on fish.

Fish is an important source of vitamins, minerals, Omega - 3 fatty acids which are beneficial for the body and the brain, but on the other hand, it also has some disadvantages. It is recommended to consume it as per individual biological preferences. However, there are many who like to have fish on daily basis and it remains in the category of delicious food.

Well monitored and judicious consumption IS advised in such cases to avoid health concerns arising from over-consumption of fish.

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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 15076, Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
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