A guide to understanding the nutritional value of fish

October 9, 2015

Fish are healthy, delicious and easy to prepare. Here's what you need to know about the nutritional value of fish and some of the health benefits associated with eating fish.

A guide to understanding the nutritional value of fish

The nutritional value of fish

All fish are rich in nutrients, especially protein, niacin, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, and more.

  • Oily fish are particularly rich in vitamins A and D.
  • In addition, the bones in canned salmon and sardines are an excellent source of calcium.
  • Fish are high in protein because they carry a massive bulk of muscle on a much more spindly skeleton than land animals do.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it's not necessarily true that the darker the flesh, the oilier the fish; the dark colour is, in fact, due to the presence of myo­globin, a pigment that stores oxygen in the muscles.
  • The flesh of salmon and trout gets its appealing pink colour from astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment derived from the crustaceans and insects the fish feed on.
  • The diet of farmed fish is often fortified with carotenoids to enhance the pink colour of the flesh.

Farmed versus wild fish

There is no difference in nutrient content between fish that are farmed and those caught in the wild.

  • However, some farmed fish, such as salmon and trout, have a texture that is mealier than that of their wild counterparts.
  • There is some concern that farmed fish may contain PCBs since these substances are more likely to be found as contaminants in coastal waters.

The power of omega-3 fats

  • The human body uses omega-3 fatty acids to manufacture prostaglandins, chemicals that play a role in many processes, including in­flammation and other functions of the immune system.
  • Several studies have found that a diet that includes fish oil equivalent to the amount in a 230 gram (eight ounce) daily serving of fish could relieve the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Re­searchers believe that the beneficial effect was due to omega-3 fats, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This fatty acid seems to promote the production of forms of prosta­glandins and other substances that are less active in inflammation than those derived from saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fats are being studied as a possible treatment for Crohn's ­disease and ulcerative colitis.

Consider the healthy benefits associated with fish, and try adding more fish to your diet today!

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