Priceless gems from our oceans |25 November 2022
If we have to name one food that has strong ties with our culture and tradition, it would have to be fish.
As a reminder of the important role of fisheries not least for our nutrition but also across different sectors, every year the world celebrates World Fisheries Day on November 21.
It provides an opportunity for us to reflect on how we should all work together to sustainably maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem so we can continue to enjoy what our oceans gives us every day. It is also a chance to show our appreciation to the fishers in this noble profession.
Forty to fifty years ago the main protein source for most Seychellois were fish. Annual estimates show that we have one of the highest fish consumption globally. Although fish remains at the top of the list in many households, it is slowly being replaced with meat and more worryingly, processed meats.
An abundance of nutrients
Fish is important for the food and nutrition security of our people. It is a nutritionally dense food packed with many nutrients, each with important functions in the body.
Fish is a rich source of high quality protein which is important for the maintenance of our skin, nails, muscles, organs and blood vessels and creation of cells, hormones and enzymes that are needed in different systems in the body.
Fish is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially oily fish like mackerel, bonito and trevally.
Aside from protein and healthy fats, fish also contains many vitamins such as vitamin D, B6, folate and B12, and minerals such as iodine, selenium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus which all have vital functions in our body.
Vitamin B12 which is only found in animal sources is crucial for DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation and nerve functions. Vitamin D is important for bone mineralization, cell growth and immune functions.
Iodine is required for the formation of thyroid hormones needed for the formation of proteins as well as regulation of normal metabolism. Folate is essential for DNA and RNA synthesis.
Selenium is an antioxidant protecting cells from harmful chemicals and assists with immune functions and thyroid hormone metabolism.
Zinc is an important component of many metalloenzymes needed for cell division, tissue maintenance, supporting a healthy immune system and for overall metabolism.
Fish contains many nutrients that have been found to play a role in promoting a healthy brain.
Iodine is a mineral which is crucial for protein formation in the brain and central nervous system of the baby during pregnancy and in infancy.
Folate is important for neural tube development in foetus during the first trimester of pregnancy and is important to prevent neural tube defects.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish, namely DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are important for healthy brain development during pregnancy and early childhood.
It is recommended that pregnant women consume fish as it is essential for the neurological development of their baby and it has also been proven to be safe.
But the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids don’t end there. There is research now showing the importance of this fat which can also partly be attributed to regular fish intake in protecting brain cells and delaying cognitive impairment and memory loss which are often linked with diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Another important organ that is protected as a result of regular fish consumption is the heart.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower triglyceride levels, inflammation, plaque formation and reduce blood pressure. They are therefore important for heart health and reducing your risk of heart disease.
Seychelles has an abundance and wide variety of fish of different taste. There is great versatility nowadays to how fish is prepared and cooked but in order to preserve the nutrients in fish our cooking method is important.
Fish are only as healthy as the way we choose to prepare and cook them. Therefore, it is important to reduce the amount of oil, salt and packaged sauces used when cooking them as excessive amounts of such products can increase the risk of heart disease.
Many people find it easier and quicker to deep-fry their fish. In fact, this is one way that most of us have grown up eating fish.
Deep-frying adds additional fats and destroys some of the nutrients in fish and should therefore be limited as much as possible. If this is one way that you prefer your fish, then try to keep it to not more than once a week. Alternatively pan-fry of shallow fry your fish to create a similar texture but using less oil.
Healthier ways of preparing fish include steaming or poaching, grilling or making a stew or curry with minimal oil added in the preparation. Fresh fish is very flavourful and only requires minimal ingredients to enhance the flavour such as spices, herbs, ginger, garlic and lemon.
What is your favourite way of eating fish? We would love to hear from you.
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Yours in health
The E4OH Team