Health Alert: Benefits to eating fish during Lent

Health Alert: Benefits to eating fish during Lent
Fish fry list throughout the area. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - For centuries, Catholics have eaten fish on Fridays, after Vatican II in 1965, just during Lent, as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and his desire to make the apostles, many who were fishermen, "fishers of men."

It turns out the practice of eating fish might not just have spiritual significance but also health benefits as well.

"Part of having a heart-healthy but also a brain-healthy diet is eating a lot of fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids," says Brian Appleby, MD, a neurologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. "Those who take Omega-3 fatty acids are at lower risk of developing dementia." 

Fish like salmon and cod are called "brain food" because of their high amounts of Omega 3s, a fat that helps brain functions. Dr. Appleby also suggests eating fish is good because it's used as a substitute for red or processed meats, which, in excess, can harden or clog arteries, potentially leading to heart problems.

So even with breading and dunked in oil, is fish healthy?

"You still get the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids at fish fries but you also get the fat and the grease from the frying as well," Dr. Appleby says, "so there's definitely a preference for baked fish."

Some recommendations call for four servings of fish a week, according to Dr. Appleby, who points out a large piece of salmon can count for two servings plus two tuna fish sandwiches can meet the weekly goal..

While there are Omega-3 supplements, Dr. Appleby says studies show people who get Omega-3s from eating fish appear to do better. "There may also be something specifically in fish that may be helpful."

Lent ends on March 24th.

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