1.   Excellent source of protein

Fish is an excellent source of protein and provides per gram similar amounts of protein compared with chicken and red meat. An adequate protein intake is essential to sustain many complex metabolic processes in our bodies. These processes include the maintenance and manufacturing of various components of cells, cell repair and formation of red blood cells to name a few.


Protein also improves satiety of meals by delaying digestion and blood glucose absorption and thus contributing to improved appetite and blood glucose control.



2.  Ideal fatty acid composition

In order to reduce your blood cholesterol level, you should try to limit your intake of saturated fats as much as possible. All types of fish have a superior fatty acid composition when compared with red meat and chicken. All types of fish contain very little saturated fats. (See Table for the composition of fats)



3.   Excellent source of essential fatty acids

Polyunsaturated type of fats are natural components of both animal and vegetable fats and are also found in a variety of vegetable oils. These two very important fatty acids have been identified as essential nutrients since the body cannot synthesize them.  These fatty acids are alpha linolenic acid or omega 3 and linoleic acid or omega 6. These fatty acids play an important role towards the following functions in the body:


  1. Regulation of energy transformation processes in the body
  2. Formation of eicosanoid precursors. These are hormone like substances that regulate important health processes such as inflammation and immune responses.
  3. Regulate processes beneficial to the health of your heart


The amount of dietary intake of omega 3 and omega 6 are important and should ideally be in the ratio of 1 to 5. (1 Omega 3 to 5 Omega 6)  The current western diet encourages an excessive intake of saturated fats and is also characterized by a high consumption of omega 6 fatty acids. The reason is that omega 6 fatty acids are more readily available in a variety of vegetable oils (sunflower, soybean and corn oil) and margarine’s, while sources of omega 3 such as the vegetable oils (rapeseed, flaxseed, soya bean, nuts) and FATTY FISH are foods that are not consumed enough.  (See table for the omega 3 fatty acid composition of fish)


Research has proved that the incorporation of more omega 3 fatty acids in the diet and restoring the balance with omega 6 leads to dramatic health benefits especially towards the health of your heart and glycaemic control.

The twice-weekly consumption of fatty fish has been shown to reduce the incidence of and severity of cardiovascular disease by modifying various factors.  To mention just a few we know that omega 3 fatty acids decrease platelet aggregation – thus decreasing the rate of plaque formation against the arterial walls. Through many complex mechanisms omega 3 fatty acids promote dilation of the blood vessels, increase blood fluidility and have anti clot formation effect.


Omega 3 fatty acids also contribute to a lower production of two types of fat by the liver – namely triglycerides and very low density lipo proteins (VLDL), all beneficial with regard to heart diseases.

Omega 3 fatty acids also contribute positively to the regulation of hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias.

The whole process of atherosclerosis is being acknowledged as an inflammatory process. Diets high in omega 3 reduces the inflammatory response by inhibiting the production of many inflammatory mediators and positive results have been observed in individuals who suffer from other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.



4.   Glucose metabolism

Poly unsaturated fatty acids play a beneficial role in the maintenance of energy balance and glucose metabolism in the body.  The fatty acid composition of the cell membranes especially of the skeletal muscle cells is closely related to insulin sensitivity. Poly unsaturated fatty acids and omega 3 contribute to maintenance of the integrity of the cells membranes and contribute to increased insulin sensitivity and consequently improved blood glucose control. These fatty acids, unlike saturated fats, enhance fat oxidation and reduce fat deposition. Fatty fish therefore contributes to improved weight control.


The recommendation is that you should try to incorporate fish at least 2 -3 x a week in your diet.






Replace the usual egg, bacon with grilled kipper or poached haddock served with stir-fried or grilled onion, tomato and mushroom.



Convenience and time is important thus make use of leftover fish from supper or canned and smoked fish and incorporate with salads or serve with bread / toast or low fat whole-wheat crackers. If you use fish canned in vegetable oil drain the oil off. Examples to serve are :

  1. Silver sardines served on health bread toast and chunky vegetable soup
  2. Smoked salmon or peppered mackerel or tinned pilchards in tomato sauce served with Slice of seeded bread or high fibre crackers as well as sliced tomato, cucumber, avocado and pineapple slices.
  3. Tinned curry fish or pickled fish served with a large green salad and health bread



Fish in sauce

Use a bland fish such as hake or cod and cover with a low fat cook in sauce and microwave or bake in the oven. A variety of sauces are on the market. Buy the sauces with a fat content of 5 gram fat / 100g of sauce or lower.


Open a tin of tomato onion mix. Stir-fry peppers and mushrooms on the side. Add the tin to the mushrooms and peppers and pour on the fish. Bake at 180 grades till done


Grilled Fish

Place stronger flavoured fish such as Yellow tail  in an oven dish. Mix olive / canola oil with lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Pour over the fish and grill in a hot oven 250 degrees  till done. (Approximately 10 min).


Stir-fry – Steam firm fish on the side. Stir-fry a variety of vegetables till nearly done. Flake the steamed fish in chunks, add  herbs and vegetables and serve with noodles.



Can I add Fish in braai?

Wrap firm types of fish for example as fresh tuna and snoek in foil. Dress with olive / canola oil, lemon, herbs and spices as well as with sliced vegetables such as onion, tomato, carrots, olives and baby marrow. Place on the coals.



Visit the fish restaurant more often. Order the catch of the day – grilled and ask to be served without lemon butter but with fresh lemon.


Commercial oven baked fish (Battered and Crumbed)


The food industry uses hydrogenated fats that are saturated by nature – make sure the fat content is less than 10 g fat per 100g fish.



Yours in Health,

Mbali Mapholi


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