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Fish as a food is consumed by many animal species, including humans. It has been an important part of the diet of humans in almost all countries in the world. Animal proteins are generally superior to plant proteins and fish is one of he cheapest sources of animal proteins and availability and affordability is better for fish in comparison to other animal protein sources. Fish serves as a health food for the affluent world owing to the fish oils which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) , at the same time, it is a health food for the people in the other extreme of the nutrition scale owing to its proteins, oils, vitamins and minerals and the benefits associated with the consumption of small indigenous fishes. Under nutrition, malnutrition and starvation and resultant mortality are major problems in developing and underdeveloped countries. Two forms of child under nutrition. ‘Marasmus’ (chronic deficiency of calories) and ‘Kwashiorkor’ (chronic protein deficiency), often occurring together, are world health problems. In this context, fish, being one of the cheapest sources of animal proteins, is playing a big role and can still play a bigger role in preventing the protein-calorie malnutrition.

Nutrient profiling of fishes show that fishes are superior nutrients and umpteen number of health benefits are believed to be associated with regular fish consumption. Fish, especially saltwater fish, is high omega -3 fatty acids, which are heart-friendly, and a regular diet of fish is highly recommended ny nutritionists. This is conjectured to be one of the major causes of reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases in Eskimos. It has been suggested that the longer lifespan of Japanese and Nordic populations may be partially due to their higher consumption of fish and seafood. Fish are also great for the skin. Nutritionists recommend that fish be eaten at least 2-3 times a week. The health benefits of eating fish are being increasingly understood now. Oily fish is claimed to help prevent a range of other health problems from mental illness to blindness.

Nutrient profile of fish

Fish is an important component of human diet. More than 50% of indian population is fish eating and in some states more than 90% of the population consume fish. Fish contains proteins and other nitrogenous compounds, lipids, minerals, and vitamins and vey low level of carbohydrates. The superior nutritional quality of fish lipids (oils) is well known. Fish lipids differ greatly from mammalian lipids in that they include up to 40% of long chain fatty acids (c14-c22) that are highly unsaturated and contain 5 or 6 double bonds; on the other hand, mammalian fats generally contain not more than 2 double bonds per fatty acid molecule. Fish is generally a good source of vitamin B complex and the species with good amount of live oils are good source of fat soluble vitamins A and D. Fish is particularly a good source of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper and trace elements like selenium and zinc. Besides, saltwater fish contains high levels of iodine also. In fact, fish is a good source of all nutrients except carbohydrates and vitamin C. Some inland fish species like singhi (Heteropneustes fossilis), magur (Channa sp.) and koi (Anabus testudineus) are known to be of therapeutic importance.

Fish and Macronutrients


Protein content of fish varies from 15 to 20% of the live  body weight. Fish proteins contain the essential amino acids in the required proportion and thus, improve the overall protein quality of mixed diet. The importance of fish in providing easily digested protein of high biological value is well documented. In comparison to the other sources of dietary proteins of animal origin the unit cost of production of fish is much cheaper. Fish also come in a wide range of prices making it affordable to the poor. A common man can afford to meet the family’s dietary requirement of animal proteins because he has the option to choose from a fairly large number of fish species available. A portion of fish provides with one third to one half of ones daily protein requirement. This explains how fish plays an important role in meeting the nutritional food security, especially in preventing the protein-calorie the past this has served as a justification for promoting fisheries and aquaculture activities in several countries. On a fresh weight basis, fish contains a good quantity of protein, about 18-20, and contains all the eight essential amino acids including the sulphur-containing lysine, methionine, and cysteine.

Fatty acids/ Fish oils

There are mainly three types of fatty acids; saturated fatty acids (SFAs), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The first two are synthesized endogenously, but the third one cannot be synthesized by the humans and therefore must be obtained from the diet. The human body cannot synthesize n-3 fatty acids, but it can from 20-carbon

Source :

Fish as Health-Food
Outreach Activity Consortium #3 : Nutrient profiling and evaluation of fish as a dietary component
Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute,
Barrackpore, Kolkata - 700 120

Updated on : Feb 2015


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