- Mar 28, 2018 -
The British Nutrition Foundation says we need to eat one to two portions of oily fish every week, but where should you get these from?
The best types of fish to eat are oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and pilchards.
Catherine Collins, chief dietician from St George's Hospital in London says you can eat canned fish like sardines or pilchards but not tinned tuna. This is because tuna loses a lot of its essential fatty acids (EFAs) when it goes through the food processing system to be canned, so a fresh tuna steak would be better.
If you are going to be eating tinned fish, choose a fish in brine rather than in oil. The majority of the oil used in canned fish is sunflower oil. Although this is a polyunsaturated fat, it is the type more prone to triggering free-radical damage in the body. 'The good EFAs in the fish will be swamped by the sunflower oil so its not really that great for your health,' says Catherine.
There is some debate over whether eating fresh fish from a packet in a supermarket or fish bought from a fish monger is better for you. The answer is that there is no real difference between the two.
'There is only a small window of about two or three days before a fish starts to go off,' says Catherine. 'So it does not really matter where you buy it so long as it is fresh.'
The way you cook your fish is also important. Although it may taste great, fish and chips is not helping boost your intake of EFAs.
This is because the fish normally used for fish and chip dinners is cod which has much lower levels of EFAs than oily fish. Covering the fish in batter and frying it in oil - most likely omega-6 rich vegetable oil - also lowers the health value of the fish.
If you want to cook oily fish, the best ways are either to steam it or grill it to preserve as many EFAs as possible and cut down on using any other polyunsaturated fats on the fish.
For the 'ultimate' fish in terms of health value, Catherine recommends eating tinned sardines in tomato sauce.
She says, 'It is an oily fish and one 7 inch sardine can also provide one portion of
protein. There are also lots of small bones so you are getting added calcium in your meal. If it is tinned in tomato sauce, you are also getting the benefits of lycopene - another cancer fighting nutrient.'
Some fish eaters may be worried about chemical residues in fish called PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls. This are chemicals that were dumped in the sea decades ago, but are still showing up in fish, animal and human fats.