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Oily Fish
How Much Oily Fish?

Any self-respecting healthy-eating plan should contain oily fish for the omega 3 fatty acids - here's the guidelines for how much you should eat.

How Much Oily Fish?

By WLR Staff, Laura Meads

We all hear about the health benefits of eating oily fish and yet we are told that there could be health risks. So how much are we meant to eat?

Oily fish provide us with a rich source of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which can help reduce the risks of heart disease. It turns out that on average people in the UK only eat a third of the recommended intake of oily fish, and that seven out of ten of us don’t eat any at all.

There is strong evidence that supports the fact that omega 3 fatty acids can help with the development of the nervous system in babies before and after they are born. There is also a small amount of evidence that suggests if women who are trying to get pregnant and women who are pregnant eat oily fish it will help their babies’ development.

Omega 3 fish oil in the diet will protect the heart and circulation can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Medical studies have also shown that omega 3 oils play an important role in the development of our brains.

Seafood in general contains an abundance of essential minerals which include, iron, zinc, iodine and selenium. Fish is also a good source of vitamins, which maintain healthy nerve tissues, strong bones and teeth and a glowing complexion. As well as your brain, your love life could benefit as well because seafood, in particular oysters, has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac!

What counts as "oily fish"?

Oily fish Non oily fish
Trout Cod
Salmon Haddock
Mackerel Plaice
Herring Cole
Sardines Whiting
Pilchards Lemon sole
Kipper Skate
Eel Halibut
Whitebait Rock salmon/dogfish
Tuna (fresh only not canned) Ayr
Anchovies Catfish
Swordfish Dover sole
Bloater Flounder
Cacha Flying fish
Carp Hake
Hilsa Hoki
Jack fish John dory
Katla Kalabasu
Orange roughy Ling
Pangas Monkfish
Sprats Parrot fish
  Pollack
  Pomfret
  Red and grey mullet
  Red fish
  Red snapper
  Sea bass
  Tinned tuna

All the fish listed in the oily fish column count as part of the recommended weekly allowance when they are fresh, canned or frozen. Tuna only counts as an oily fish when it is fresh. This is because when it is canned the omega 3 oil levels are reduced to similar levels to that of white fish, so although canned tuna is a healthy option it doesn’t have the same health benefits as fresh oily fish.

The amount of oily fish that is recommended per week changes depending on your age and lifestyle, The standard recommendation is that everyone should eat at least two portions (a portion is 140g) of fish a week and one of them should be oily.

The following table shows recommendations from the Food Standards Agency for specific groups.

  Oily fish White fish Tinned tuna Marlin, shark, swordfish
Girls (under the age of 16) Up to 2 portions a week (280g) No limit No limit on tinned Do not eat
Boys (under the age of 16) Up to 4 portions a week (560g) No limit No limit on tinned Do not eat
Women who are pregnant or women in general who may become pregnant in the future Up to 2 portions a week (280g) No limit Up to 4 medium sized cans Do not eat
Breastfeeding women Up to 2 portions a week (280g) No limit No limit on tinned Up to 1 portion a week
Women who are not intending or who can not become pregnant Up to 4 portions a week (560g) No limit No limit on tinned Up to 1 portion a week
Men Up to 4 portions a week (560g) No limit No limit on tinned Up to 1 portion a week

There have been reports in the news over the last year or so that there could be health risks associated with eating too much oily fish in particular salmon. This is because oily fish contain dioxins, a type of pollutant found in fish. Dioxins are by-products from certain industrial processes and household fires. They are found throughout the environment and in all fishes. There is another type of pollutant found in fish, known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). These were used mainly in the manufacture of electrical equipment but they haven’t been used since the 1970’s.

Levels of both dioxins and PCB’s are falling throughout the environment, and in the food we eat. They both have no immediate effect on health; the risk comes from eating high levels of them both over a long period of time.

So I bet now you are all wondering how many calories there are in these fish. Here are a few examples, all the others you can find on the WLR database.

Calories in Oily Fish per 100g portion
Type of fish Raw (kcal) Grilled (kcal) Smoked (kcal) Steamed (kcal) Baked (kcal)
Salmon 180.0 215.0 179.5 197.0  
Trout 132.1 135.0 138.5    
Swordfish 148.7 139.0      
Kipper 126.0 255.0     205.0
Eel 113.0        
Herring 139.0 181.0      
Carp 112.0        

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