Fish oil- We know we should eat more fish but the benefits are only just becoming clear, writes Shelly Horton.
If anything we eat is worthy of being called a ”superfood” it has to be fish. Studies have proven fish oil can help alleviate a seemingly endless list of conditions, from heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, menstrual pain and even weight loss.
A Sydney-based GP, Dr Ginni Mansberg, sums up its healing abilities thus: ”What’s not to like about fish oil?” she says. ”All the studies that have been been done, the results have been so impressive. We are now ready to stake everything on its ability to lower triglycerides [the fats related to cholesterol] and prevent heart disease. But there are so many more benefits.”
The skin is the body’s largest organ and one of the most powerful indicators of health. Most of us spend a fortune slathering on expensive creams and lotions in the hope of undoing years of damage. Experts say the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA in fish oil are nutritious and beneficial for your skin. A dermatologist from Northern Sydney Dermatology, Dr Nina Wines, says there is mounting evidence fish oil is helpful for skin conditions, too.
”There is some evidence it has anti-inflammatory qualities, which may be helpful for eczema and psoriasis,” she says. ”And there’s evidence fish oil helps with the sebum or fatty-acid content of the skin, which keeps skin hydrated.”
But some claims are still to be proven. ”The evidence is minor for UV protection and needs more research,” Wines says.
Mansberg agrees: ”There have been a couple of studies of its help with acne but it’s not universally recommended. However, it is an anti-inflammatory so it stands to reason.”
More studies are being done. ”The studies are ongoing for its relationship with Alzheimer’s disease and I’m really hoping they are positive,” Mansberg says. ”It looks like playing a role in preventing stroke.”
How does it work?
A lot of the benefits of fish oil seem to come from the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. ”Interestingly, the body does not produce its own omega-3 fatty acids,” Mansberg says. ”Nor can the body make omega-3 fatty acids from omega-6 fatty acids, which are common in the Western diet.”
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce pain and swelling and also prevent the blood from clotting easily.
So how much do we need?
Fish oil can be incorporated into the diet by eating fish or by taking supplements. Species of fish that are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring and trout. They provide about one gram of omega-3 fatty acids for every 300 grams of fish. ”Very few of us have enough fish in our diet,” Mansberg says. ”That’s the reason I recommend taking supplements.”
To find out exactly how much fish oil to take, consult your GP.
GOOD FOR WHAT OILS YOU
Fish may have earned its reputation as ”brain food” because some people eat fish or take fish oil to help with depression, psychosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s disease and other thinking disorders.
Some people use fish oil to lower blood pressure or triglyceride levels. Fish oil has also been tried to prevent heart disease or stroke.
Women can take fish oil to prevent painful periods, breast pain and complications associated with pregnancy such as miscarriage, high blood pressure late in pregnancy and early delivery.
Others use fish oil for dry eyes, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Fish oil is also used for diabetes, asthma, developmental co-ordination disorders, movement disorders, dyslexia, obesity, kidney disease, osteoporosis, diseases related to pain and swelling such as psoriasis and preventing weight loss caused by some cancer drugs.
Source: US National Library of Medicine.
SALMON WITH WALNUT PESTO
For the pesto:
100g walnuts (also high in omega-3s)
½ cup tightly packed parsley leaves
½ cup tightly packed mint leaves or basil
¼ cup cold pressed walnut or flaxseed oil
juice and zest from 1 lemon
a little salt and freshly ground pepper
4 x 150g pieces salmon fillet
Combine the walnuts, parsley, mint or basil, oil, lemon juice, zest, sea salt and pepper in a high-speed blender until mixed through. Have your pesto as smooth or as chunky as you like.
Cooking the salmon
To pan fry, use a little oil and cook quickly over medium heat, skin side down. You can cover with a lid if you wish to retain more heat, which will cook the fish quicker. It should take about six to eight minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. To roast, place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 200C oven for eight minutes. Serve with a green salad or steamed vegies and fresh lemon.