The Health Benefits Of Fish

Fish Head DishFish makes a wonderful addition to any healthy diet. Its fat content is generally low (many types provide 20% or less of calories from fat), making it a great protein option. And the fat it contains, appears to hold promise of preventing diseases. Eating fish instead of meat or poultry usually means less total fat, but it also almost always means less saturated fat (as long as it’s not a deep-fried fillet smothered in tartar sauce).

And that’s important when it comes to the health of your heart and blood vessels. Ironically, though, fatty fish is better for you than lean fish because it contains more omega-3 fatty acids.

The US Physician’s Health Study of 22,000 men, for example, found that those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 had the least risk of sudden death. And the Nurses’ Health Study of 85,000 women found that two to four servings of fish a week reduced heart disease risk by one-third. Even people who ate fish just one to three times a month enjoyed its benefits. As a result of much of this research, the American Heart Association now recommends two weekly servings of fish.

You don’t have to buy fresh to get the health benefits that omega3 fatty acids offer. Canned fish, including tuna, sardine and salmon, offer the same omega-3 as fresh varieties.

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Selecting And Storing Fish

Fish doesn’t stay fresh for long. If handled properly, fatty fish, such as bluefish, tuna, salmon, mackerel or herring, lasts only about a week after leaving the water. Lean fish like cod, haddock or perch lasts about 10 days.

To ensure the fish you buy is fresh, check for a ‘fishy’ smell. If you detect one, don’t buy it. Whether you buy whole fish, fillets or steaks, the fish should be firm, not soft to the touch. The scales should be shiny and clean, not slimy. Check the eyes – they should be clear, not cloudy, and should be bulging, not sunken. Fish fillets and steaks should be moist, so steer clear if they look dried or curled around the edges.

It’s best to cook fresh fish the same day you buy it. Fish generally spoils faster than beef or chicken, and whole fish usually keeps better than steaks or fillets. But it will keep in the refrigerator overnight if you place it in a plastic bag over a bowl of ice.

If you need to keep it longer, freeze it. The quality of fish is better retained if it is frozen quickly. Freeze fish whole if it weighs two pounds or less. Larger fish should be cut into pieces, steaks or fillets. Lean fish will keep in the freezer for up to six months; fatty fish, only about three months.

Tips On Preparing Fish

Preparing fish without adding lots of fat is simple. The key to keeping fish moist and flavorful lies in taking advantage of fish’s natural fat and juices. The number one rule: preserve moistness.

In practical terms, that means avoiding direct heat, especially when preparing lean fish. You’ll get the best results with lean fish, such as flounder, monk fish, pike and red snapper, if you use moist-heat methods, including poaching, steaming or baking with vegetables or a sauce that holds moisture in.

Dry-heat methods such as baking, broiling and grilling work well for fattier fish.

Fish cooks fast. That means it can overcook quickly. You can tell a fish is done when it looks opaque and the flesh just begins to flake with the touch of a fork.

The general rule of thumb for cooking fish is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the fish’s thickest point.

Marinades do wonders for fish. But as with poultry, keep safety in mind. Never marinate at room temperature – use the refrigerator. And never use the marinade as a sauce for prepared fish unless you boil the marinade first.

Meat, poultry and fish can all be excellent sources of protein. With the right selection, preparation and storage, these three items can form the backbone of any healthy diet and give your body more disease fighting potential.

Healthy Fish Cutlet Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ kg fresh fish fillet (cut into big pieces & boil with a dash of turmeric, black pepper and 1 tsp salt – then drain)
  • 2 Potatoes (boiled and mashed, leaving some lumps)
  • 2 fresh green & red chilies (finely chopped)
  • 1 inch ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves (finely chopped)
  • 3 stems coriander leaves (optional, finely chopped)
  • 2 big onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 egg, separate yolk from white
  • Breadcrumbs as much as needed

Method:

  • Add chopped ingredients into a big bowl.
  • Mix in drained and cooked fish fillet. Break the cooked fillet chunks into small pieces.
  • Add in the egg yolk and mix well. Add salt if needed.
  • Form small round patties according to preferred size.
  • Beat egg white until you get a nice white foam.
  • Coat patties with foamed egg white and coat again with bread crumbs.
  • Using very little oil, fry over low heat and serve warm.
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3 Responses

  1. Nathan says:

    We went to the doctor recently and she said that we should encourage our kids to eat those small cans of tuna as a snack daily rather than other snack foods. The health benefits of fish are really starting to become well known and recommended by health experts.

  2. Fish is indeed great. My main concern is that most fish today are contaminated with undesirable levels of mercury. The more fish we eat, the more mercury we accumulate in our bodies. And mercury is a deadly poison.

  1. September 19, 2008

    […] Oily fish (mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon), tuna, trout, linseeds, nuts and polyunsaturated cooking oils (sunflower and rapeseed) provide omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. A balance of these is needed for the production of prostaglandins that regulate the menstrual cycle. A low fat diet is healthy, but you need some daily beneficial fats to avoid menstrual problems and PMS. Try to eat oily fish at least once or twice a week, and sprinkle a tablespoon of linseeds and nuts over your cereal each morning. Some women benefit from taking an evening primrose oil supplement. […]

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