Sunday, 27 November, 2022
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HEALTH IS WEALTH

Nutritional value of fish and the young generation’s dietary habits

Nutritional value of fish and the young generation’s dietary habits

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Thinking about Bengali dietary habits, the first thing to come to mind is “Machee Bhatee Bengali”. The meaning of this proverb is, fish and rice make a Bengali. Fish is an important part of Bengali culture for ages.

This desire of people for fish should never dishearten us, because fish is a very nutrient rich food. Fish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. A portion of 150g of fish provides about 50 to 60 percent of an adult’s daily protein requirement as stated in FAO’s fisheries and aquaculture report 2018. Vitamins A, D, B12 and the minerals -iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and iodine are available in fish. The undervalued fish parts –the head, viscera and backbone – are high in micronutrients.

Fish are classified as whitefish, oily fish and shellfish. According to another FAO report entitled Fish and Fish Products, whitefish contain very little fat (usually less than 1 percent) whereas oily fish contain between 10–25 percent. In addition, fish enhances the bioavailability of iron and zinc from the other foods in a meal.

 Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are found in all types of fish, but are especially high in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Seafood is a natural source of iodine, and iron, zinc and calcium, particularly fish that are eaten with bones. For example, some of the small fish like mola have micronutrients along with a very high content of vitamin A as retinol.

Drying fish is an excellent way to preserve fish. Dried fish contains an immense amount of omega-3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants, and are rich in calcium and other micronutrients.

The many benefits of eating fish include;

Helping to avoid heart diseases and hypertension

Helping to lower the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke

Reducing the tendency for increased blood clotting

Decreasing the risk of cancer

Benefitting the immune system

Boosting brain health.

Besides these, the Calcium and vitamin D available in fish are important in developing healthy teeth and bones. Iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones.

Including fish in diet is a very smart choice. However, with the fly of time, peoples’ lifestyles change as well as their mentalities and food preferences. As people become busier, they do not get enough time to prepare food or to eat. This situation increases their attraction for ready-made foods. Along with other factors, advertising sector plays an important role to change their needs and tastes.

If we pay closer attention to our young generation’s dietary patterns, we can see that they have less interest in eating fish. Their favorite foods include fast food such as fried chicken, pizza, burgers, and sugary drinks.

They are not willing to eat fruits and green leafy vegetable. They prefer to eat meat instead of fish. Some of them do not like fish because of its bony parts, and some are not habituated to eat fish from their childhood. Even some of them believe that having fast foods are entertaining and helps them to keep high status in their circle of friends. Some of them avoid eating different foods to maintain slim figures. As a result, they are deprived of the different nutrients available from eating fish and face complications.

We can influence the dietary habit of the young generation by:

Disseminating knowledge about the nutritional benefits of fish

 Building awareness about the negative effects of unhealthy food

Ensuring the availability of healthy food including fish in the cafeteria of educational institutions

 Organizing debates about the benefits of fish

 Providing incentives such as awarding the champions for eating fish regularly

 Arranging art competitions on fish related issues

 Providing dietary guidelines from institute level

The young generation is our future leaders, so we need to make sure they are healthy and strong enough to carry their responsibilities and to make the right decisions for us.

 

Sharmin Sultana

A Public Health Professional

Email: [email protected]