The benefits of fish

Low-calorie, omega-3-rich alternative to red meat

Fish is an underrated alternative to meat as a good source of protein in your diet. “It contains almost half the calories per 100g compared to red meat and is naturally lower in saturated fat than red meat and white meat that’s eaten with skin,” says dietician Renee McGregor.

It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to promote heart health, lower bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure levels. These acids are believed to help improve brain and psychological function too. “The majority of us are deficient in omega-3, which is found in fish oil,” McGregor continues.

“It’s particularly rich in fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are two of the most potent forms of essential fats. Omega-3 fish oil can significantly reduce inflammation and alleviate pain, such as in sports related injuries. Also, during sports and endurance training, muscle tissues break down and your body is put into a lot of stress. Omega-3 penetrates the muscle cells to help prevent damage.”

In fact, a study conducted back in 2008 and published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology revealed the impact of this for athletes’ endurance training. “The test subjects, who were trained cyclists, were given either olive oil or omega-3 fish oil for a period of eight weeks,” says McGregor. “It was found that cyclists who took in omega-3 fish oil found it easier to perform the task well, needed less oxygen and maintained a lower heart rate throughout the test.”

And don’t forget the white sources of fish. These are also important to incorporate into your diet due to their lean protein and low fat content, which can help maintain a healthy weight while still providing muscle fuel. “Varieties containing small bones also provide both calcium and vitamin D, which are essential in maintaining optimal bone health,” adds McGregor.

To get the most from fish, make sure you include a healthy portion of carbohydrates and vegetables alongside it. McGregor suggests trying mackerel and sweet potato fishcakes, or blending up sardines into a paté and having it on toast with some salad. You could also use a white fish such as bass or pollock as a variation on chicken in curry. 

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