Brits are now consuming a staggering 382 million portions of fish and chips every year1. Although a chip shop treat every now and then is harmless, too many takeaways could be a major contributing factor to the UK’s obesity problem. Our latest Health Check Report2 revealed that losing weight is the main priority for 32% of the UK, but with 10,500 fish and chip shops currently dotted around the country, there’s temptation lurking around every corner.
Our data unveiled that almost half (46%) eat fish and chips as one of their most regular takeaways. So, we got in touch with a range of experts to investigate some of the health effects of this type of fast food, and to find out how you can make your fish and chips dinner is as healthy as possible.
What are the effects of fish and chips on your body?
Although fresh fish typically contains important nutrients, deep fat frying your food, coupled with a lack of fruit and vegetables, means that this meal lacks much nutritional value. Charlotte Stirling-Reed, Nutritionist at SR Nutrition, explains that by regularly eating this type of takeaway, “a person could become deficient in some of the nutrients that are essential in immune function, such as vitamin A, vitamin C and folate.” As a result, your body will struggle to keep itself healthy.
If your immune system is down and you’re lacking all the right nutrients, your energy levels will dwindle and you’ll start feeling tired and fatigued.
Serotonin is one of the ‘feel good’ chemicals which your brain releases. Aisling Pigott, British Dietetic Association spokesperson, tells us that the quantity of carbs in this type of meal will initially “release a Serotonin response, leading to happy thoughts.” However, “the amount of fat and the sheer volume is likely to result in post-meal low mood.”
Pigott highlights that “the absorption from the stomach will be incredibly slow for this high fat, high protein, high carbohydrate meal.” This means digestion could take up to eight hours! Stirling-Reed adds that if someone was to regularly eat such large portion sizes, “their stomach capacity may increase.”
As a result of your stomach stretching, you’ll need to start eating more food to help reach satiety (the state of being completely full). Stirling-Reed also tells us that “the Government recently upped the recommendation for fibre in the UK to 30g per day for adults,” but you’re unlikely to achieve this by regularly eating a diet of fish and chips. She explains that fibre is an important part of our diets. It encourages healthy digestion, and “can help us to feel full following on from a meal.” These factors may cause you to eat more food so you feel satisfied, which in turn could contribute to weight gain.
Frequently consuming a diet which is high in processed and fried foods – combined with large amount of sodium and fat – can have a severe impact on your arteries. Stirling-Reed explains that this is because “the high blood pressure caused by eating high amounts of salt and certain fats, puts a strain on the inside of your blood vessels and this leads to hardening and thickening of the arteries.” Jo Travers, The London Nutritionist, author of The Low-Fad Diet adds that “consuming too much total fat can lead to increased LDL cholesterol.” Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ and can lead to clogged arteries.
As a consequence of blocked arteries and higher blood pressure, the heart will be working much harder to pump blood around the body. Stirling-Reed adds that “people with high blood pressure are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.” This really highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Kidneys and bladder
With a meal already high in sodium, adding even more salt to your chips can have an effect on your body, as your kidneys will have to work hard to filter the sodium. Travers also explains that a high amount of salt will result in a lower urine output, which “can lead to kidney and bladder infections.”
Obesity is a serious issue in the UK, with around one in every four adults now obese3. Unhealthy diets are a big contributing factor to this problem. With just under 1800kcal for a portion of fish and chips, this meal is a large percentage of your daily allowance (which is around 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men). Stirling-Reed confirms that “regularly eating such high calories for one meal puts a person at serious risk of weight gain and obesity.”
Reconsider your fish and chips order
After a long week at work, we’re all inclined to occasionally give in to the odd guilty pleasure. Therefore, with the help of our experts, we’ve put together a few easy tips for you to follow, to help you order something from the takeaway menu with a little less salt and fat.
A homemade alternative
We got in touch with health and fitness blogger Lottie Rainbow, who told us that you can follow the recipe below, so you can make your loved ones a delicious but healthy fish and chips alternative at home.
Not only can you prepare something tasty, but Rainbow also explains all the nutritional goodness and health benefits of this pesto salmon and sweet potato recipe.
Firstly, by opting for salmon, this type of fish “is high in omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to healthy brain function and help to reduce the risk of heart disease.” You could also pick another delicious fish, such as mackerel, sardines or trout. When thinking about what veg to put with your dish, spinach is a great shout. “Popeye's choice for a reason, it’s high in iron and vitamin K which is important for maintaining bone health.” Lastly, why not opt for sweet potatoes over normal white potatoes? This is because they’re “packed full of vitamins and don’t cause blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain. Instead, they release energy slowly, keeping you going for longer!”
So, next time you’re tempted to pop to your local chippy to order a greasy fish and chips, why not try out your own healthy homemade alternative instead? You’ll be taking care of your family’s taste buds as well as their health and wellbeing.
2.Aviva’s Health Check UK report research: All percentages and figures shown in this report (unless otherwise cited) come from an online survey conducted by ICM research for Aviva UK Health. The survey was carried out in August 2016. Respondents were invited from ICM’s online panel and 1,996 interviews were conducted amongst a nationally representative sample of the UK adult population. Additional interviews were conducted to achieve a robust sample of 1500 parents with children under 18.