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Fish
A precious part of healthy eating
Protein with a high biological content, omega 3, minerals and vitamins. The substances in fish give the body major benefits and prevent many diseases by Luigi Formisano
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Fish for soup. Photo by Dario Ersetti

Fish, one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, is very important in the body’s well-being. It is one of the main sources of the proteins available in our diet: they have a high biological content and are present in only a slightly lower quantity than those from animals, compared to which they are easier to digest. There is also a considerable percentage of fats, which are not evenly distributed among the various species, varying from 0,5% and 27%. Fish is rich in unsaturated fats (fundamental not only for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases but also for the antioxidant effect), in phospholipids (important for the nerves), minerals, like phosphorous, iodine and selenium and vitamins A, B and D. Omega 3 protects our sight: numerous studies have showed that eating fish lowers the occurrence of age-related macular degeneration, a serious condition affecting the retina. The benefits for the cardiovascular system are well known, especially the reduction of the risk of heart attack. A Swedish study shows that eating one serving of fatty fish and four servings of lean fish a week helps significantly to lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis or an autoimmune disease. The substances in fish also protect the skin, acting on the mechanisms regulating skin hydration. In addition, eating fish helps to protect us from the damage caused by free radicals and ultraviolet rays. A healthy diet based on fish and omega 3 is also important during pregnancy: it enables the baby’s brain and nervous system to develop correctly. Moreover, those who eat fish can be sure their intelligence will be more developed, because omega 3 ensures better performances, including the operation of the working memory (…and it’s not due to phosphorous!).

Based on the nutritional features and the fat content, fish can be divided as follows:

Lean fish, with a fat content below 3%: sole, sea bream, brill, cod, dogfish, stone bass.

Semi-fatty fish, with a fat level of 3-9%: anchovy, red snapper, carp, tuna, trout, sword fish, sardine, goatfish, bream, mullet.

Oily fish, which contain over 9% fats: eel, mackerel, salmon.

Mollusks belong to the broad fish family. They are creatures characterized by a soft body, which gives them their name. From a nutritional point of view, mollusks have good protein content, including sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, iodine, vitamins A and B.

Crustaceans have a hard but articulated external shell covering the body. They include many species of which the best known, in terms of food, are crawfish, shrimp, lobster, crab and Norway lobster. They are sold both fresh (alive) and frozen; in the first case, to be sure of the freshness and quality, you need to check that the shell has no dark marks and that the smell is pleasant with no hint of ammonia. Crustaceans contain good quality protein, are high in cholesterol and have a high content of B group vitamins as well as minerals such as iodine, phosphorous, sodium and potassium.

Although fish is one of the foods most commonly recommended by dieticians, it is often not eaten enough. A normal serving of fish (150 g) contains on average about 25 g of protein, about a third of the daily protein requirement. To make sure its precious nutrients become our allies in staying healthy and preventing cardiovascular diseases, we have to eat fish (especially cod, hake, and blue-tailed fish), at least 3-4 times a week.

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