Nutrition

Is Fish Good For People with Diabetes?

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Our lifestyle influences our food choices. Simple changes in our diet go a long way in preventing and controlling lifestyle diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals with type 2 diabetes are twice more likely to develop cardiovascular issues.

One way to achieve effective diabetes control is by following the correct diet. Fish comes under the category of a ‘superfood’, as it promotes heart health. But, what is the connection between diabetes and the consumption of fish? Is fish good for a person with diabetes? If so, then which Indian fish is good for diabetes? Continue reading to find out the answers.

Nutritional Profile

Nutritional profiling means classifying foods according to their nutritional composition. 17% of the world population’s animal protein intake comes from fish. 

Health Benefits

Proteins

  • Peptides
  • Amino acids (e.g. lysine)
  • 90% digestibility
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Essential for growth and repair

PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids)

Omega-3 fatty acids like:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Excellent for heart and brain health
  • Suitable for the immune system

Vitamins

  • D3
  • B2 
  • B12 
  • Help to fight infections
  • Promotes overall health

Minerals

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Fluorine
  • Iodine
  • Essential for neural and bone development
  • Prevent deficiency diseases
  • Help in proper utilisation of vitamins

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Advantages Of Fish For People With Diabetes

Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein with low fat. But, can a person with diabetes eat fish? Since fish is rich in heart-healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it is one of the best choices in food for a person with diabetes. Let us learn why:

1. Negligible Glycemic Index

Glycemic index (GI) is the value assigned to a foodstuff based on its rapidity to increase blood sugar levels. Since fish has low carbohydrate content, it does not have a GI ranking. Its consumption helps in maintaining consistent glucose levels.

2. Low on Calories

Fish is a low-calorie food. This keeps issues of obesity at bay and helps manage diabetes better.

3. Effective for Blood Glucose Control

Fish is low in carbohydrates. Cutting down on carbs helps people with diabetes manage their condition better.

4. High-quality Protein

Protein improves body metabolism. It helps to decrease your hunger cravings, leading to healthier weight management. It balances out the absence of carbohydrates in the diet.

5. Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

DHA and EPA lower inflammation and control triglyceride levels, reducing cardiovascular risks. They decrease insulin resistance and lower fasting blood sugar levels.

6. Value of Vitamin D3, Phosphorus, and Calcium

Calcium and phosphorus prevent osteoporosis, which is often linked with diabetes. They slow down the progression of the disease. Vitamin D3 helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Additionally, it promotes insulin sensitivity and improves glycemic control. 

7. Vitamin B2 and B12

These vitamins are great for metabolism, and they help prevent kidney diseases related to diabetes. They also help ward off nerve damage.

8. Plentiful Fibres

Fibre helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Unlike carbohydrates, fibres don’t spike up blood glucose volumes. 

Best Types Of Fish And Ways To Consume Them

Fish is an excellent option to include in a diet meant to control diabetes. But, are all fish varieties suitable? Which Indian fish is good for diabetes? Can a person with diabetes eat fried fish? The bottom line is that not all types of fish are suitable for managing diabetes. Fatty fish rich in DHA and EPA are the best options. 

Here are the top five varieties of fish that help control blood sugar levels:

1. Salmon

The Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It reduces cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes, like heart failure and stroke. It improves insulin sensitivity.

2. Tilapia

It is rich in protein and a mineral called selenium, which lowers blood sugar levels. It reduces cholesterol and prevents blockage of arteries. 

3. Mackerel

Loaded with high concentrations of proteins, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, mackerel serves to decrease cholesterol levels in the blood. It is known to prevent heart disease and dementia as well.

4. Herring

The high concentrations of EPA and DHA in herrings are beneficial for brain and heart health. It is one of the best sources of vitamin D and iodine. The antioxidants help stabilise blood glucose levels

5. Sardine

Being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, sardines slow down glucose absorption in the bloodstream. It prevents inflammation, thus, lowering the risk of heart disease. 

Which Indian Fish Is Good For Diabetes?

All the fish varieties mentioned above are readily available in India.

  • Rohu (Indian Codfish)
  • Rawas (Indian Salmon)
  • Indian Oil Sardine
  • Aar (Giant river Catfish)
  • Bangda (Indian Mackerel)

These locally sourced varieties of fish are great options as they do not raise blood sugar levels. 

Best Ways To Consume Fish

  • Baking, Broiling, Steaming, Poaching, and Grilling are the Healthiest Cooking Methods.
  • Minimize Adding Salt or Sauces.
  • You could even incorporate the Fish into Soups and Stews.
  • ‘Sous vide’ or slow cooking of fish at low temperatures is also a great option, as it retains the flavour without compromising on the nutrients.
  • However fried fish should be avoided as frying adds extra calories, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates. 

Risks Of Over Consumption Of Fish

Some risk factors related to fish consumption are:

  • Contaminants like mercury and pesticides present in fish can damage the nervous system. 
  • Toxins such as methyl mercury and dioxins in water may enter the bodies of the fish, leading to neurotoxicity and cancer.
  • Most of these toxic substances remain in the body for a long time, causing multiple health issues. 
  • Raw or uncooked fish increases the risk of food poisoning and parasitic infection.
  • Consuming well-cooked fish that are low in mercury content can reduce the risks considerably.

Bottomline

Is fish good for a person with diabetes? Well, fish is a ‘superfood’, as far as diabetes is concerned. But, as the saying goes, “Excess of anything is bad”. Moderation is the key. Fish is one of those few foods that provide ample nutrition without causing any adverse effects on blood sugar. Hence, it is wise to include this superfood in your diet chart for stabilising glucose levels.

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