he claim that fish is good for your brain is not just an old wives’ tale. As your body’s control centre, your brain keeps your heart beating, lungs breathing and lets you move, feel and think.
That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your brain in peak working condition.
The foods you eat play a key role in keeping your brain healthy – and can improve specific mental tasks such as memory and concentration.
When people talk about brain foods, oily fish is often at the top of the list. The main ones to go for include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, kippers, fresh tuna, salmon and trout.
All are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids – which is important because about 60 per cent of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind.
Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory.
Omega-3s have some additional benefits for your brain – they may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer’s disease .
And they may help make the “good mood” brain chemical, serotonin.
Not getting enough omega-3s is linked to learning impairments, as well as depression and memory loss. One study found people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly had more grey matter in their brains.
And that’s the stuff that hosts most of the nerve cells which control decision-making, memory and emotion.
To gain all these benefits, health experts recommend we eat at least two portions of fish each week – one of which should be from the varieties above that are rich in omega-3s.
The recommendations are based on a serving of around 140g, that’s about 170g before cooking.
So if you’re only eating small portions – for example half a can of tuna provides around 60g of fish – you may need to eat fish more often.
It isn’t just the brain that benefits. Omega-3 may help relieve joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis , while seafood helps bones, teeth, blood pressure , the immune system and processing food.
The panel to the right gives a few ideas on how to put more fish into your weekly family menu. Below are three tasty recipes to help you along.
Why fish is so good for you
It ups your iron
Iron is key to red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It also helps reduce tiredness. Fish rich in iron include brown crabmeat, clams and crayfish, as well as cockles and mussels.
Boosting metabolism and nervous system
Iodine helps your body maintain the thyroid gland and produce the thyroid hormones which regulate the body’s metabolism.
Find iodine in cod, coley, crab, crayfish, haddock, langoustine, lobster, mussels, oysters, sardines, squid and whiting.
All seafoods – white, oily and shellfish – are packed with quality protein that supports muscle growth and maintenance.
It aids eyesight Oily fish contain omega-3 fat DHA, which helps maintain vision. But riboflavin – vitamin B2 – is also vital and found in zinc, crabmeat, herring, flounder, mackerel, mussels, sardines and many shellfish.
Rye bread topped with cottage cheese, chopped dates and cooked prawns.
Toasted wholegrain bagel topped with low-fat soft cheese and smoked salmon.
Toasted wholegrain baguette topped with diced tomato, red onion, garlic and tinned sardines in olive oil. Wholemeal wrap filled with avocado, tomato and can of tuna.
Curry with cubes of monkfish, veg and brown rice.
Stir-fry from hunks of white fish such as basa, tilapia or hake with garlic, ginger, chilli, veg and low-salt soy sauce.
Seafood and vegetable pizza
500 cal per serving
- 2 x 150g thin crust pizza bases
- 200ml passata with onions and garlic
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pepper, thinly sliced into rings
- 200g sweetcorn
- 225g pack cooked King prawns
- 50g can anchovies in olive oil, drained
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 2 x 125g balls mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gasmark 6.
- Place the pizza bases on to baking trays. Spread the passata evenly over the bases, making sure you go right to the edges.
- Top the passata with the onions, peppers, sweetcorn, baby spinach, king prawns and anchovies. Add the slices of mozzarella and season with black pepper. Pop in the oven for around 10-15 minutes until the pizzas are piping hot and the cheese has melted. Cut the pizza into slices and serve.
Zesty prawn jacket potato
326 cal per serving
- 300g baking potato, scrubbed
- 8 cooked king prawns
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- Salad, to serve
- Heat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas mark 6.
- Prick the potato and bake in the oven for around 1 hour or until cooked through.
- Mix the prawns with the lemon zest and juice, and the parsley and season with black pepper.
- Serve the jacket potato with the prawns and salad.
Toast with smoked mackerel paté
528 kcal per serving
- 2 smoked mackerel fillets
- 1tsp horseradish sauce, or to taste
- 4tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
- Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
- 4 slices wholegrain toast, cut into triangles
- ¼cucumber, sliced
- Flake the mackerel into large chunks, removing any bones and skin. Add the horseradish sauce, yogurt and lemon juice and mix together. If you prefer a smooth texture, pop the ingredients into a food processor and whiz untilsmooth. Season with blackpepper.
- Serve the paté topped with the toast and cucumber slices.