How much fish can we eat safely? Why is fish good for you? Why is oily fish especially good for you?
How much fish can we eat safely?
Men and women should eat at least two portions of fish a week - one of which should be oily.
Eating fish has many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease. But there are also some potential health risks. Because of this, the UK Food Standards Agency has recommended that men eat no more than four portions of oily fish per week and women and children no more than two.1
Below we look at the issue in more depth.
How much fish should I eat?
Everyone should eat at least two portions of fish per week (one of which should be oily) because all fish has many health benefits.1
Why is fish good for you?
Fish is a good source of protein, it contains lots of vitamins and minerals, and it is low in saturated fat. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps reduce the risk of heart disease. All fish contain these oils, but oily fish contain much more of these oils than white (non-oily) fish.1
Omega-3 fatty acids are also needed for the development of a baby's brain and spinal cord.1
Fish with edible bones, such as sardines, pilchards and tinned salmon, also contain calcium phosphorus and fluoride. Calcium is needed for strong teeth and bones, phosphorus is essential for many body functions, and fluoride is needed for strong teeth.1,2
Other vitamins and minerals found in oily fish include vitamins A, which is needed for vision in dim light, as well as for healthy skin, and vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones. Fish is also a good source of selenium, which helps protect cells from damage by acting as an antioxidant.1,2
Why is oily fish especially good for you?
At least half of smokers are eventually killed by the habit.3
Oily fish is particularly good for you because it contains more omega-3 fatty acids. Also, when you eat oily fish you are more likely to eat bones as well as flesh as the bones are often soft and easily chewable, providing calcium, fluoride and phosphorus.1
How much oily fish should I eat?
Girls and women who might have a child one day, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should always eat one portion of oily fish a week. But the UK Food Standards Agency recommends that they should not eat any more than two portions.1
Men and boys, and women who will not become pregnant, should also eat at least one portion of oily fish per week. The UK Food Standards Agency say they can eat up to four portions per week.1
There are no known health risks associated with white fish, so you can eat as many portions per week as you like.