As well as preventing dementia, eating seafood has been found to reduce the chances of chronic heart disease.
But despite research that suggests this, a nationwide survey commissioned by YouGov and new health campaign Fish is the Dish revealed 85 per cent of the aren’t eating enough.
Championing the campaign and encouraging the UK to add seafood to their menu twice a week, consultant nutritionist Juliette Kellow and Masterchef winner Jane Devonshire have joined forces to help people find ways to eat more seafood, more often.
The old wives’ tales that “fish is good for the brain” certainly seems to have some truth behind it, says Juliette.
She added: “Studies show that good intakes of fish help to slow down cognitive decline. Diets containing plenty of seafood are also linked with a lower risk of dementia. For example, adults with the highest intakes of fish were a fifth less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease when compared with those who had the lowest intakes in a recent review of studies.
“Furthermore, the risk was lowered by 12 per cent with every 100g of fish that was eaten each week. The benefits of fish on brain health have been shown to be even greater in individual studies.”
French research studied adults aged 65 or older who weren’t genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease for four years. The researchers discovered those who ate fish once a week were 35 per cent less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and 40 per cent less likely to get any form of dementia during this time.
Juliette explained: “One of the omega-3 fats in fish – docosahexanoic acid or DHA – in particular is known to have an important role in keeping our brain healthy and so is often considered to be the crucial nutrient for reducing our risk of dementia. However, many other nutrients – that are often found in good amounts in fish – are important for a healthy brain, too. These include vitamins B3, B6 and B12, which help to keep us psychologically well.
“Pantothenic acid (a B vitamin) supports normal mental performance and is found in anchovies, crab, lobster, salmon and rainbow trout. Meanwhile, iodine, iron and zinc all contribute to normal cognitive function – in other words, a person’s ability to process thoughts, remember and understand things and learn new information. A deficiency of iodine during pregnancy, for example, can affect the development of a baby’s brain and this can affect a child’s ability to learn in later years, for example resulting in a lower IQ or poorer reading ability. Receptors for vitamin D are also widespread in the brain, suggesting this nutrient has an important part to play in brain health.”
With regards to heart health, omega-3 fats help keep the heart working normally, lower levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and reduce blood pressure, says Juliette.
She added: “Other heart health benefits come from some of the B vitamins in fish. For example, B6 and B12 help control homocysteine (a type of protein), high blood levels of which increase the risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, the naturally occurring cholesterol that’s found in foods like shellfish doesn’t affect blood cholesterol levels (unless you have familial hypercholesterolaemia, a genetic condition that causes exceptionally high levels of cholesterol). Instead, it’s high intakes of saturates and trans fats that affect blood cholesterol. All varieties of fish are low in these.”
So what kind of seafood should people be eating regularly and adding to their shopping baskets?
Jane said: “Fish is a great, versatile, fast food option and there are so many dishes that can be quick to prepare and easy to cook – it’s also a lot more affordable than many people realise. White fish such as cod, plaice, haddock and coley, and shellfish such as prawns, mussels and crab, are a great choice if you want to reduce your calories without resorting to small portions or missing out on a recipe that is packed with flavour.
“Monkfish is very versatile which is what makes it such an enjoyable fish to both cook with and eat. The most common way to buy monkfish is in medallions – you can pick these up from your local fishmonger or at the fish counter in your local supermarket. It has a lovely sweet, mild flavour and because of its meaty, firm texture, it can be simpler to prepare than other white fish.
You can swap the monkfish for other white fish such as cod, hake or haddock. As with any fish, you want to make sure it’s as fresh as it can possibly be. Look out for fish with a pearly white flesh and shimmering skin. The flesh should also be firm to the touch – then you’ll know it’s fresh.”
One recipe Jane recommends is cod and green lentils.
She said: “This dish takes 30 minutes from start to finish and is a real mid-week favourite. It’s also a one-pan dish so there’s hardly any washing up. If you want to cook your own lentils, puy lentils are the ones I use.”
1 large frying pan
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 x 150g cod, haddock or coley fillet
2 x 380g packs of green lentils in water, drained and washed
75g olives from a jar, chopped
250ml hot vegetable/fish stock
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the onions and gently sauté until they are translucent and cooked through. Then add the tomatoes.
Clear a space in the pan. Add the fish fillets and cook with the tomatoes and onions over a medium heat, flipping the fish carefully once, for around 5 minutes in total. Keep the heat on medium – you don’t want the fish to brown. The fish is done when you can easily pierce it with a cocktail stick and the flakes are no longer clear.
Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan and place on a warmed plate. If there are bits of fish left in pan don’t worry they will add to the flavour.
Add the lentils, chopped olives, stock and chopped parsley to the pan (reserving a little of the parsley for garnishing) and stir well.
Heat through then add the white wine vinegar. You don’t need to add salt as the olives are salty enough, but if you wish, a grind of black pepper is nice.
Divide the lentils between four bowls or plates, top each with a piece of fish and garnish with the reserved parsley.
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