'When The Boat Comes In...'
Optimum Nutrition|Summer 2019
'When The Boat Comes In...'

Why fish can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet, and some recipes to get you started.

Despite the UK being an island, fish makes up just a small part of our diet — in fact the UK exports most of its catch. Yet fish, whether lean white fish or fatty fish rich with omega3s, can make a valuable and nutritious contribution to our diet.

Seafish (seafish.org) has launched a campaign to get us eating “seagan”; i.e. combining sea fish with a plant-based diet. “Think Seagan” has a variety of downloadable materials suggesting tasty and innovative ways to consume and enjoy fish, including: a starter kit; a 28day meal plan; recipes including how-to videos; and a store cupboard guide. There is also a range of educational tools, such as seafood fact and myth sheets.

Marcus Coleman, chief executive of Seafish, said: “The health benefits of eating seafood are well documented and coupled with the benefits of a plant-based diet, seaganism presents a sustainable, tasty and flexible diet for people of all ages and stages of life.

“Our Think Seagan campaign will inspire and educate those looking to make changes to their diet.”

Juliette Kellow, a dietitian and nutrition consultant, said: “Government advice recommends that at least two thirds of what we eat should be based on plant foods. But government also recommends that we consume two portions of fish each week, one of which should be an oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or herring. This is in part because they are full of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help the heart to work normally and maintain normal blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels. One of the omega-3 fats found naturally in fish (DHA) is also important for maintaining normal brain function and vision.”

Sustainability and fraud

With sustainability now a growing concern, it’s recommended to look out for the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue tick sign. An international non-profit organisation, the MSC certifies seafood based on the sustainability of fish stocks.

Whilst mislabelling of fish and possible food fraud has recently hit the news according to the MSC, DNA barcoding has shown that less than one per cent of MSC-approved products were mislabelled, compared with a reported average global seafood mislabelling rate of 30 per cent.

The MSC states that there are many reasons why mislabelling may occur. Unintentional mislabelling can result from misidentification of species when the fish is caught, mix-ups during processing or ambiguities in product naming, such as the use of catchall trade names such as ‘snapper’ or ‘skate’.

The blue tick label is only applied to fish and seafood that has been caught wild or that has been farmed in fisheries that have been certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard.


A study of people working in a fish processing factory in South Africa has found fish consumption to be associated with a lower risk of asthma and asthma-like symptoms. Researchers from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University (JCU), tested omega-3 levels in the blood plasma of 642 people in a small South African village. Professor Andreas Lopata of JCU said: “Asthma incidence has nearly doubled in the past 30 years and about half of asthma patients do not get any benefit from the drugs available to treat it. So there’s a growing interest in non-drug treatment options.” Dramatic changes to diet worldwide are believed to have driven the rise of the disease.

“There is an increasing consumption of what is known as the n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) found in vegetable oils and a decline in consumption of n-3 PUFA, which is mainly found in marine oils. Crudely, there has been a global move from fresh fish to fast food,” he said.

The fishing village was chosen for the testing because it had a population with high fish consumption and low socioeconomic status, so it would be likely that marine oils from fish and other seafood, rather than supplements, would be the main source of n-3.


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Summer 2019