Fish, Fats, Fruit and Frozen Foods...
Thought of as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It is packed with goodies that we need for our bodies and brains to function well. A lot of us don’t include enough of it in our diets.
Diets which include high levels of fish like the Mediterranean diet are generally associated with lower risks of obesity. Studies have also shown it to have a protective effect on heart disease. It is also shown to have positive effects on brain development as oily fish is a rich source of DHA which is necessary for cognitive development.
A great source of protein, omega 3-fatty acids and Vitamin D it’s certainly something we should be incorporating into our diet if we of course aren’t vegans and veggies!
As part of a balanced diet – it’s good to include fish into your meals twice a week if you can. One of those should include an oily fish if possible like salmon, mackerel, or sardines. Tuna is not an oily fish. A portion of fish classes as about 140g.
Oily fish has maximum recommendations however and girls, pregnant or breastfeeding women or women who are hoping to get pregnant should eat a maximum of 2 portions of oily fish a week as oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants which can build up in the body over time.
You can however eat as much white fish a week as you like – but certain white fish such as sea bass, sea bream turbot, or halibut might contain similar pollutants to oily fish so make sure you don’t even these named fish more than twice a week.
Eating tuna should also be kept to no more than 4 cans or 2 tuna steaks a week too due to the level of mercury that it contains.
Types of fish:
White fish include fish like cod, haddock, pollock, coley, hake, bass and halibut.
Oily fish include fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, pilchards, kipper, trout, whitebait and anchovies.
How can I cook my fish?
You can cook your fish in any way you wish – steam, poach, bake, grill, fry. However, steamed, baked or grilled is much healthier than fried and always try to buy sustainably sourced fish where possible.
What is sustainably sourced fish?
Sustainably sourced fish is fish that has been fish with the following principles in mind:
1. To leave enough fish in the ocean so fish stocks don’t run out
2. Respecting habitats and other species – ensuring that when fishing the ecosystem stays healthy
3. Ensuring people who rely on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.
We want to buy sustainably sourced fish to make sure that the above is the case and we can all eat fish for years to come.
Do I need to eat fresh fish?
No absolutely not! Frozen fish is often cheaper but the quality is often as good if not better than fresh fish. Ensure you read the labels but you can find that frozen fish is often fresher than the ‘fresh’ counter top fish.
Try and buy frozen fish without additives. You want to look for ‘Quickly-Frozen’ or flash frozen as this means it was frozen fresh without any deterioration to the quality.
You can also cook frozen fish straight from frozen – make sure you cook it gently by either steaming or roasting and poaching. This works best with white fish.
You can find more information on this here.
Quick Eats: A deliciously simple fish-pie
Using the cheese sauce recipe we shared a few weeks ago here, you can make a delicious fish pie.
Get a mixed bag of fish pie mix, (300-500g)
Make your cheese sauce and stir in your fish to your cheese sauce (you can add a teaspoon of Dijon or English mustard to the cheese sauce if it is to your taste).
Add in a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and sweetcorn.
Pour into an oven proof dish. Top with sliced tomatoes (optional) and sprinkle on grated cheese (any type e.g. cheddar, gruyere, edam etc) and breadcrumbs – or you can add mashed potato to the top before topping with tomatoes and the breadcrumb and cheese mixture.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180oC for about 20/25 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. You want the fish to easily flake when you test it.
Serve with garlic bread or wholemeal toast and some broccoli or spinach on the side or whatever vegetables of choice.
A delicious and comforting meal.
Should we avoid them?
Absolutely not. Fresh produce is great however, if you can’t guarantee your produce is very fresh you may well be better off buying frozen fruits, veggies and other products.
A few interesting facts discovered by researchers between fresh and frozen foods;
Nutritional values of protein, carbohydrate, fibre and mineral content are similar between fresh and frozen foods.
Fresh produce can lose up to half of its vitamins and phytonutrients as a result of how it has been stored.
With frozen food, less fat-soluble vitamins like A and E are lost during the freezing process compared with water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin C.
Frozen produce may contain more vitamins and phytonutrients than fresh produce which is a few days old.
What are frozen foods?
Frozen produce is caught fresh e.g. fish or if fruit or vegetables, picked ripe, sometimes blanched briefly in hot water before being frozen near to the site it was sourced from. The fast time between picking/catching and freezing is what helps to preserve the nutrient value of the food. Occasionally to stop browning Vitamin C might be added during the packing process which means you can end up gaining more Vitamin C than from the fresh product.
Fresh produce starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s picked from the ground or tree. They start to use their own nutrients.
Vitamin C which is present in a lot of fresh produce is sensitive to light and oxygen and deteriorates when exposed to this.
Keeping your fresh produce in the fridge can help slow down the process of degradation but the rate at which nutritional value is lost varies from one item to another. So it is important to bare in mind when selecting foods to eat – if you cannot access fresh produce you might be better buying frozen as the freezing process pauses the process of things like oxidisation (which contributes to the loss of Vitamin C).
Vitamin C is an important vitamin in our diet as it is responsible for helping reduce cholesterol levels, protect against free radicals and help the body absorb iron.
For more on this have a look at this article by the BBC.
Quick Eats: Simple smoothie for a breakfast energy boost.
· 1 tbsp porridge oats · 80g frozen soft fruit (whatever you have – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries all work well) · 150ml milk · 1 tsp honey (optional)
· STEP 1
Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth. Then serve.
Makes enough for two glasses.
N.B: When making a smoothie – the key to getting it cold and thick is to use frozen fruits. Buy bananas, blueberries, raspberries and put them in the freezer so when you want a smoothie just take them out and use them – or buy them ready frozen.
Too many bad fats in your diet can raise your cholesterol level and increase your change of heart disease.
We do however need some fats in our diet
Why do we need fats?
A small amount of the right fats in our diet are essential for a health and balanced diet. Our body cannot make essential fatty acids itself so it needs to get them from somewhere else.
It is important to have fat in the diet because it helps the body to absorb vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Fat-soluble means that they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
If you have excess fat in the body due to not being used by your cells or turned in to energy, it will turn in to body fat. Unused carbohydrates and proteins are also convered in to body fat.
What are the two main types of fat in foods?
Unsaturated and saturated.
Saturated fats are found in lots of foods both sweet and savoury. They are mainly from animal fats (meat and dairy) or some plant fats like palm oil and coconut oil.
So you will find them in things like:
Biscuits, cakes, fatty meat, dairy products, savoury snacks like crackers, meat products like sausages, butter, chocolate, ice cream etc.
IT is not good to consume high levels of saturated fats because our it heightens levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood.
Life is about balance. It’s not to say that you can’t have these things. What is important is that you are aware of how much you are eating and being aware of WHEN you are eating saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are responsible for helping reduce your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are mainly found in plants and fish and include oils such as:
Olive oil, avocados, some nuts like almonds, brazil nut and peanuts. These are sources of mono-unsaturated fats.
The other type of unsaturated fats are poly-unsaturated – these are omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Some of these can’t be made by your body so they are essential to be consumed as part of our diet.
We often have enough omega-6 in our diet but it is omega-3 we often lack. The best source of this fat is oily fish. You can find it in some vegetables too – but research has shown that the benefits to heart health are not as good as the omega-3 from fish.
Where possible try to cut down your overall fat consumption and switch from foods and drinks that contain saturated fats to those that contain unsaturated fats.
Quick eats: Half a dressed avocado
Cut an avocado in half lengthways and carefully remove the stone.
In a jam jar, mug or similar vessel – mix the juice of ½ a lemon juice, a couple of glugs of olive oil (about double the quantity of lemon juice), a crushed garlic clove (easiest way to do this is to make a fist and hit the garlic clove a couple of times to squash it.)
Add a ½ to 1 tsp of Dijon mustard (depending on whether you like mustard), a little salt.
Put the lid on the jam jar and shake vigorously. Then pour some of the dressing in to the middle of the avocado. To eat, spoon out of the skin. Delicious.
Pop the jar lid back on and put the dressing in the fridge to put on salads or green vegetables like beans or broccoli at a later date.
A lovely afternoon snack to fill a hole!
The often sweet and juicy delicious morsels that often grace our breakfast bowls, lunchtime drink selection and after supper palate cleansers.
Fruit is an excellent source of ways to pack your diet full of important vitamins and minerals to help improve overall health and reduce risk of disease.
However – it is important that you don’t just rely on fruits when it comes to fruits and vegetables in order to get your nutrients and vitamins. A diet high in both fruits and vegetables can help people’s risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation and diabetes. It is thought that citrus fruits and berries are especially powerful for preventing disease.
To get the best benefits from fruit, it is helpful to eat a variety to get the most benefits.
They are useful when it comes to losing weight as they are relatively low in calories and high in fibre and water which can help give you that full feeling.
Recommended guidelines when it comes to eating fruit is 2-4 portions per day of whole fruit not just the juice. About half of your recommended daily fruit and vegetable intake should come from fruit. Total recommended intake of fruit and vegetables per day is about 400 grams.
Diabetics can also eat whole fruit – as the fibre can even help reduce insulin resistance.
Fresh, frozen, tinned, all count. Note that potatoes, yams and cassava however do not count towards your 5 a day.
Our top 5 fruit recommendations because they are packed full of goodness to nourish your soul are:
Fruit juice (up to 150ml) no matter how many times you drink it, will only count to as one portion towards your five-a-day. Be mindful that smoothies and juices can contain high levels of sugars.
For more info on what counts head to the NHS website here.