Did you know your brain is mostly made out of fat? Take away the water and most of what you are left with is actually fat. About 60% of the fats in the brain are omega-3 with DHA, a type of omega-3 found in fish, being the main type. Omega-3 fats are essential for healthy brain development both in the womb they also play a role in maintaining normal brain function in adults.
Oil-rich fish is a key source of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Tinned fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are all great places to add omega-3 to your diet. But the benefits of omega-3s go way beyond the brain. The omega-3 DHA also contributes to the maintenance of normal vision.
When it comes to the heart, omega-3s have even more benefits. EPA and DHA contribute to the normal function of the heart*, helping to maintain normal blood pressure** and even helping to keep blood triglyceride levels normal***. Tryglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that is thought to contribute to heart disease at high levels.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium and calcium contributes to the maintenance of normal bone and teeth. Usually, your body makes vitamin D when sun shines on your skin but in Ireland we get so little sunlight that many people are deficient in vitamin D. You need at least 5 micrograms of vitamin D every day and oil-rich fish is a great place to get it. 100g of tuna has 3.6mcg of vitamin D, 100g of sardines have 5.6 mcg and 100g of red salmon has a whopping 17mcg. The great advantage of tinned fish is that the bones are easy to digest – this means you can get calcium from tinned salmon and sardines as well as vitamin D. Tinned sardines are very rich in calcium which means you can get 2/3 of your daily calcium in one serving. Vitamin D and calcium together help to reduce the loss of bone mineral in post-menopausal women making tinned fish a great food to include in your daily diet.****
*The benefit is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg of EPA and DHA. A
**The benefit is obtained with a daily intake of 3g of EPA and DHA
***The benefit is obtained with a daily intake of 2g of DHA
****Women aged over 50 and the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of at least 1200mg of calcium and 20micrograms of vitamin D from all sources.
100g tin of mackerel has 3900mg of Omega-3.
100g tin of red salmon has 1500mg.
100g tin sardines has 1200mg of omega-3.
(Source: McCance and Widdowson (2002). The Composition of Foods Sixth Summary Edition).