Here are the reasons why you should eat small fish, according to Harvard

A Harvard nutrition professor claims that eating small fish such as sardines is much better for your health. We tell you all the reasons why.
Anchoas - pescado pequeño

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More and more people are becoming aware that food is very important for good health. As a result, many have been cutting down on fast food and products such as burgers and sausages, replacing them with poultry and seafood. According to experts, these protein sources are better than beef, both because they reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and because they are less harmful to the environment. And when it comes to fish, Christopher Golden, associate professor of nutrition and planetary health at Harvard, recommends small fish such as sardines and herring, and molluscs such as clams and oysters.

One of the reasons Golden argues that it is “much better for health and the environment to replace land-based food sources – especially red meat – with aquatic food sources”. And on this occasion, instead of popular choices such as canned salmon or tuna, he suggests choosing sardines, mackerel or herring.

Excellent sources of protein and less pollutants

Golden explains that fish such as anchovies, herring, mackerel and sardines are excellent sources of protein, micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. All of these can help to relieve inflammation in the body and promote a better balance of blood lipids.

In addition, these small fish are also rich in calcium and vitamin D, even the bones, according to Golden. Although he specifies that mackerel would be an exception, as their bones are too sharp or hard to eat cooked, but canned mackerel can be eaten without problems.

Furthermore, these fish are significantly less likely to contain pollutants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), compared to other large species such as tuna or swordfish, which tend to feed on smaller fish, concentrating more toxins. With respect to the environment, eating these smaller fish can also be more environmentally friendly, as it is a better option than using them to make fishmeal, which is often fed to farmed salmon or poultry. It is true, however, that the use of fishmeal in salmon farming has decreased considerably.

Key foods of the Mediterranean diet

According to the Harvard professor, the traditional Mediterranean diet is considered the best for heart health. And it gives priority to small fish, such as sardines and fresh anchovies, the canned versions of which are an affordable option, although, for example, many canned anchovies are cured in salt and tend to be high in sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Among the culinary suggestions Golden himself provides for including this type of food in your diet, the professor suggests canned sardine toast with a squeeze of lemon, or as a filling for a sandwich, added to a Greek salad or mixed with pasta. He even suggests his favourite recipe with pickled herring marinated in vinegar.

Benefits of molluscs

Harvard also suggests increasing consumption of shellfish such as clams, oysters, mussels and scallops. They are good sources of protein, but have a fairly low fat content, so they are not as rich in omega-3s as small oily fish. On the other hand, they contain several micronutrients, especially zinc and vitamin B12, which support a healthy immune system or form red blood cells that carry oxygen and keep nerves throughout the body healthy.

And from a sustainable point of view, these molluscs do not need food and filter and clean the water, as Golden specifies. But they can be contaminated by run-off, bacteria, viruses or chemicals in the water, so it is important to follow the advice of the authorities and cook them properly.