Hammer of heart disease, scourge of cancer, possibly even the secret of eternal life… Lets all eat more fish, says Penelope Bennett.
Hammer of heart disease, scourge of cancer, possibly even the secret of eternal life… Let’s all eat more fish, says Penelope Bennett.
Fish for compliments. Drink like a fish. Have bigger fish to fry. Be a big fish in a small pond, like a fish out of water, a cold fish, or be a different kettle of fish altogether. Take it from semantics, fish is everywhere.
Many of us don’t like fish. Perhaps being forced to swallow cod liver oil tablets as a child and burping several minutes later left you with a hatred for fish you have yet to get over. Maybe it once took you four bread rolls swallowed near whole to dislodge a fish bone, or simply, those beady little eyes staring up at you from the serving platter do nothing for your appetite.
Whatever the nature of the specific aversion, many a hungry individual will chose a succulent T-bone over grilled salmon, if only because turf is, let’s face it, a damn sight more satisfying than surf. But with red meat comes saturated fats, concentrated toxins and, especially when cooked at high temperature, carcinogens.
Switch to salmon and you’ll help your body stave off cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, asthma and poor concentration (a killer, this last one). Should longevity not be of concern to you, know that oily fish such as salmon will also raise serotonin levels, the better for you to enjoy your life on the edge.
Fish oils contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, which comprise three types: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA gets converted – not very efficiently – in the body to the active forms of EPA and DHA, a process that gets harder with age. EPA and DHA are found in marine algae and in the fish that subsequently eat it. They offer numerous physiological benefits without the conversion issues of ALA and are therefore more potent in the body.
Every cell in our body requires omega-3s to function properly. The compound controls inflammation and protects cells by forming part of the cell membrane. Omega-3s have a biochemical yin-and-yang relationship together with omega-6s, present in red meat, many oils and processed foods, but, according to the UK’s Food Standards Agency, we eat far too much of the latter and our bodies are in a perpetual state of inflammation as a result.
Omega-3s act as virtual ice packs within us, working to reduce inflammation in much the same way Ibuprofen does. Complementing your diet with fish oils, research shows, will help counteract artery-blocking plaque caused by chronic inflammation, reduce your chances of developing metastatic prostate cancer, prevent the migration of tumour cells and ease joint pain, among so many other things, we’d need pages herein to list them all.
How best to up your intake of omega-3s? By eating salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, or any cold-water fish that falls in the ‘oily’ category by virtue of storing its oils in its flesh as opposed to its liver, which is where white fish store it (hence cod liver oil). Out of the question? Then take it in liquid or pill form. And you can knock that fear of smelly burps right out the window by buying enteric-coated capsules or freezing regular capsules. Either strategy will cause the fish oils to be released in your intestine instead of dissolving in your stomach, which is where the smell emanates from.
The press has lambasted fish for containing contaminants such as mercury, dioxins, PCBs and other heavy metals but the Harvard University School of Public Health says the latter are of no cause for alarm, stating that the health benefits of fish outweigh any perceived risk of toxicity by as much as 300 to 500 to one. Best to use high quality fish oils that are certified to be free of contaminants. Note: Vegans, vegetarians and those concerned with dwindling global fish stocks can still reap the benefits of omega-3s with V-Pure capsules.
Hamish Hurley, a London-based fat-loss specialist, adds that taking EPA and DHA in different ratios has the advantage of allowing you to choose what effect they have in the body. ‘EPA works by activating the body’s fat-burning cells and switching off its fat storing ones and also reduces inflammation,’ he says, ‘so look for capsules with higher doses of EPA if looking to lose weight. If seeking to better your concentration, learning or memory, favour more DHA.’
Hurley advocates taking a minimum of 3g-worth of fish oils a day, when healthy, for optimum health (all his fat-loss clients use more), either in capsule or liquid form of medical grade molecularly distilled fish oil, and adding mixed tocopherol vitamin E (mostly Gamma and Delta tocopherols) to the equation to neutralise free radicals occurring in oxidation, inevitable once the supplements enter your body.
And so another idiom comes to mind. ‘Give a man a fish… but teach him to take his fish oils and you feed him for life.’