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Why you need to eat fish

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th April 2008 03:00 AM


I refer to your article, “Pregnant women should eat fish.” Indeed, an adequate intake of all nutrients is particularly important during pregnancy and lactation. However, we all need omega-3 fatty acids, especially the growing children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised people like thos


I refer to your article, “Pregnant women should eat fish.” Indeed, an adequate intake of all nutrients is particularly important during pregnancy and lactation. However, we all need omega-3 fatty acids, especially the growing children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised people like thos














By Michael Bamuwamye

I refer to your article, “Pregnant women should eat fish.” Indeed, an adequate intake of all nutrients is particularly important during pregnancy and lactation. However, we all need omega-3 fatty acids, especially the growing children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised people like those with HIV.

We also need to know what good omega-3 fish source is and the mode of preparation of such fish to get the nutrients.

- Importance
There are good fats and bad fats. The good fats are those that contain essential fatty acids (EFAs). The EFAs cannot be made by the body; therefore, they have to be obtained from food. Too much fat, however, may be responsible for many ailments including heart diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases and premature ageing. But the omega-3 fatty acids are critical in the development of the eye and brain tissues. That is why they are important for pregnant mothers. They are a component of the testes and sperms.

They are reported to lower the risk of asthma in children and in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the cells. They control heart-related diseases and manage hypertension, arthritis, cancer and many other disorders, including diabetes.

They also enhance immune responses and help in weight management by increasing the metabolic rate of the body.

- Where can we get omega-3 FAts
There are two basic sources: Plant-based sources such as flax seed, hemp seed, soy bean and walnut oils as well as fish sources: marine planktons and cold water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout and eel).

Lake Victoria fish have been reported to have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. However, Nile Perch is singled out to have the highest levels (700mg/100g), found in any sea food. Its protein is high (20%) and it contains several micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are important in the dietetic management of heart diseases, hypertension and cancer. For example, it has a high potassium/sodium ratio that may be used in the management of hypertension. Potassium increases energy levels and builds muscle strength, thereby aiding in body weight reduction and management.

There are other sources like the grasshoppers which contain reasonable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nature of preparation
The best omega-3 fish source is a fresh one, which should be boiled or baked for optimum value. Frying or deep-frying destroys all oils and cannot be recommended for health. Similarly, smoked perch is not good since most of the oils have either been destroyed or lost during the smoking. Besides, smoke contains formaldehyde (a carcinogen) and would endanger the foetus or baby. It is also noteworthy that wild perch may be better than the farmed, in nutritional value.

Fresh omega-3 fish should be eaten at least every two weeks. Heart Foundations around the world recommend at least twice a week for people with no known heart disease. The demand and intake should be higher for those with heart problems.

The writer is a research officer at the Ministry of Health’s Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory

Why you need to eat fish

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