Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My mother told me to eat Fish

It’s good for you! She Said.

While I was growing up we had fish – lots of fish. We fished for a living. There were 12 kids in my family along with Mom and Dad and an uncle that lived with us.
Being from a rural and traditional Newfoundland community “we had a doors open policy”, meaning that we also had many “a” neighbour drop in to visit and stay for a “Bite to Eat”. Believe me, there was many an opportunity to eat!

Yes! We ate fish of many different kinds, there was Codfish, Salmon, Herring, Mackerel, Turbot, and Trout, to name a few, on our plates any given day.

The meals that we ate often included some type of fish that was cooked using simple recipes and served with vegetables that came from the family garden.
Vegetables that were grown in gardens made possible by poeople that nutured a low yield soil, yet made it productive by using fish and fish waste as a fertizler and compost. Good soil isn’t plentiful when you live in a rocky area, so most people practiced a somewhat crude but very effective form of composting, they used fish wastes. (Today that’s called by-products reuse)

For years I thought that Mom was telling me to eat my fish because it cost less to have. After all it wasn’t hard to get fish for lunch when fishing was our livelihood! There was no doubt some truth in my line of thinking then.

It wasn't until I got older that I realized, the fact that there was wisdom in her words. Looking back now, I firmly believe that she knew more than I did, before or do now, about what was good for me.

So what changed my Mind?

I like other people became more settled in life and I started thinking about my health. Somewhere back along that way, something influenced my thoughts and triggered me to begin thinking about the importance of nutrition. As I got older I started to read more and perhaps even started to learn. I found out there were good points about eating right, many of which I was told about and shown when I was younger, but I didn’t pay attention to. I also found out that I am not alone when it comes to realizing the benefits of fish in a healthy diet.

I found a growing body of evidence that indicates the health benefits of Seafood. Generally good quality fish is high in protein and low in fat. Eating seafood can provide a wide range of health benefits. White-fleshed fish, in particular, is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein, and oilier or fattier fish contain substantial quantities of omega-3s, or the "good" fats, which have been proven as essential requirements in the human diet. Fish doesn’t have the "bad" fats that are commonly found in red meat. It doesn’t have the fats that are part of the group known as omega-6 fatty acids.

Why are omega-3s good for your health?

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA have longer molecules than ALA and by all indications appear to provide the greatest health benefits for us humans. So what does that mean? Or what are those things anyway?

In the ocean, ALA is made by algae, or phytoplankton. Small invertebrate animals or zooplankton live by eating this phytoplankton and in the process they elongate (change) the ALA to EPA and DHA. In turn, when finfish and shellfish that are higher up the food chain eat plankton, they accumulate even higher concentrations of the most beneficial of the omega-3s.

To us "humans" these omega 3 fatty acids are important for prenatal and postnatal neurological development, and may reduce tissue inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Other maladies in which omega-3 may play a beneficial role include cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

What are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

Alternative sources of the shorter omega-3 fatty acid ALA include flaxseed, walnuts, and wheat germ and the many forms or brands of omega-3 tablets that are made with plant source ingredients. However, since humans do not readily convert ALA to the more beneficial EPA and DHA, the omega 3s in terrestrial plants and the products made or refined from plant sources probably do not provide as a great a health benefit as the longer omega-3 fatty acids found in marine products.

Is fish good for us? I feel that question can only be answered as yes. I found out that it was. Mom told me!