Fish and shellfish are an easy and nutritious way to add important vitamins and minerals to your diet and make a great high-protein alternative to red meat and poultry. The NHS recommends eating at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. Oily fish – such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring – contain all-important omega-3 essential fatty acid, which is important for heart and brain health as well as mood regulation.
While there are growing concerns about the sustainability of fish, there are still some everyday alternatives to buying wild fish that can still provide health benefits.
The top 10 healthy fish to include in your diet:
Salmon is versatile and one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential as the body cannot make it on its own so it must be obtained through food. Salmon’s also high in protein, with just 200g providing around 44g protein.
You can buy either farmed or wild salmon. Farmed salmon tends to be cheaper, but wild salmon contains higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acid. Canned salmon is a great alternative if you don’t want to buy fresh. As for smoked salmon, it’s high in omega-3 fatty acid and protein, but also contains a lot of sodium. Smoked fish and meats may also increase your risk of certain cancers (these tend to sit in the same category as processed meats), so it’s best eaten occasionally.
For more inspiration, check out our grilled salmon recipes collection.
Mackerel is rich in healthy fats, protein and selenium, which is important for a healthy immune system and thyroid function. You can buy mackerel fresh, canned or smoked but, like salmon, be mindful about not eating too much smoked mackerel because of the higher nitrate content caused by the smoking process, which may increase the risk of certain cancers.
Why not try one of our mackerel collection recipes?
It’s a British classic in meals such as fish & chips, but cod is also one of the healthiest white fish around. Cod is high in protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamin B12, which is needed for energy and nervous system support and may be important in helping prevent depression. In the UK, cod is widely available most of the year round, but can also be bought frozen.
Have a look at our healthy cod collection recipes and give one a try.
Trout can be bought both wild and farmed in the UK, as it’s found in both freshwater rivers and coastal areas. It’s a good source of vitamin B12, like cod, but it is also an excellent source of food-based vitamin D, with just 150g cooked trout providing over 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, essential for our immune systems. It’s also an oily fish, so contains the all-important omega-3 fatty acid.
Never tried trout before? Have a look at our trout recipe collection for ideas.
Sardines, another oily fish, can be bought fresh, frozen or canned – in fact, the canned variety is slightly more nutritious, because you can eat the bones and skin. Canned sardines are smaller in size, and because they have been soaked in oil or brine, the bones are soft and practically dissolve when eaten. This makes canned sardines higher in calcium than fresh sardines. However you eat them, sardines are a great addition to the diet, as they also contain vitamin B3 and B12, iron, zinc and selenium.
Discover the best sardine recipes.
Crab is a shellfish commonly found in the UK, usually available all year but mostly found from April until November. It’s low in fat, high in protein, contains over 100 per cent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 and also contains over 50 per cent of your daily copper allowance, which is required for healthy production of both red and white blood cells. You can find out more about how to buy the best crabs and prepare them here.
Also take a look at our crab recipes for easy ways to incorporate this seafood into your diet.
Similar to cod, haddock is a popular white fish in the UK and can be bought fresh or frozen. You may also see it smoked, sometimes with a yellow dye added (this was originally added so that producers could reduce the smoking time). However, the dye is unnecessary and you can buy undyed smoked haddock too. Like the other white fish, haddock is low in fat, high in protein and is a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Haddock is a mild-tasting fish, which makes it great for a variety of dishes and cooking methods.
Take a look at some of our haddock recipes for ideas.
Tuna is probably one of the most common fish consumed in the UK, especially the canned variety. Tuna, whether fresh or canned, is a great source of protein – in fact, tuna contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the body for growth and maintenance.
Tuna doesn’t count as an oily fish as some may think, and you do need to be mindful of potential mercury levels in tuna, especially in pregnancy. But, you would have to be consuming more than four cans a week or two tuna steaks for this to be relevant. Therefore, tuna is a great addition to a balanced diet if consumed just a few times a week. Just 100g tuna provides all of your daily B12 and selenium, plus your daily niacin (vitamin B3), which helps support energy levels and the nervous system.
Mussels are inexpensive, sustainable and rich in omega-3 fatty acid. A great source of protein, too, mussels also contain vitamin B12 and manganese, a trace mineral essential for bone health that may help prevent and treat conditions such as osteoarthritis.
You can buy mussels fresh or frozen (typically without shells if frozen). Read more on how to cook mussels in our guide.
Look for recipe inspiration in our mussels recipe collection.
Prawns are a low-calorie seafood, that are low in fat but high in protein. You can easily buy prawns all year round, either fresh or frozen, peeled or unpeeled, small or king size, so they’re an easy and healthy addition to your diet. There has often been some concern about prawns being high in cholesterol, but they’re low in saturated fat, so they can be comfortably added to your diet once or twice a week with no adverse effect. You can read our guide on whether prawns good for you for more information.
Like other shellfish, prawns contain B vitamins, especially B12, copper, magnesium and selenium, and are also a good source of zinc.
Check out our healthy prawn recipe collection for more ideas.
This article was published on 6 September 2021.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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