With the high burden of cardiovascular risk I find myself frequently telling patients to increase the oily fish in their diet. They respond positively and ask me what names I have of such fish. At this point I pause and then reel off a few names that are only applicable in the UK; salmon, mackerel etc. The patients nod and leave. I think I have informed them but I am sure that I have only suceeded in baffling them further.
So stuck with this situation, personally not being a fish eater, decided to find out what could be found out. I visited a local fish store called Saudi Fisheries and had a look at the fish lying on ice. Some of the fish stared back at me while others were lost in thought just like me. I thought some looked oily and others a bit less so but then I realised that was the gleam of water on the skins.
So I did the next best thing and asked the man behind the counter what was a good oily fish. He didn’t understand the concept and started talking about real and false fish and what other people bought. At this point I spotted a chart on one of the walls with lots of names of fish. I went over to that and tried to match the names of the fish as written on the display counter and the chart needless to say – they did not match.
But in the age of the internet the chart had a web page and I noted it down: saudi-fisheries.com. I bought one fish and decided to give it a try later on and see if any internet research could reveal any further information.
As I browsed through the website I spotted the Arabian versions of Mackerel which are called according to the website: Kanad, Busaimy and Bagha. You can see this on page 2 (at the bottom) & 3 (at the top) of their list of fish. A Qatari website claims that the Qatari government has analysed the Kanad fish and it indeed is a rich source of Omega 3 fish oils.
Just as a reminder the UK recommends a limit to the portion of oily fish eaten. There is limit for white fish. The difference is that oily fish tend to accumulate microtoxins (mercury etc.) and a prolonged, high diet may lead to unhealthy accumulation of such products in the human body. There is no limit on white fish. But what is the difference between oily and white fish?
Oily fish store their oils throughout the fish body whereas white fish only store it in the liver. So oily fish has a higher omega 3 content but white fish can provide a low fat content.
According to a buyers guide on the BBC website choose fish which are stiff, shiny eyed, red gilled and not smelling fishy – these are fresh. If floppy, dull eyed, dull gilled and smelling fishy this means they are decomposing and more than a day old. The guy in the fish market should gut and debone the fish but this can cause it deteriorate rapidly so make sure you freeze it or cook it as soon as possible.
Here is a draft leaflet that you can use or modify for your patients: Draft Fish Leaflet for Patients