We should be eating at least two portions of fish per week including one of the oily fish. If you eat a lot of fish, choose as wide a variety as possible both for health reasons and for reducing the environmental impact. There are only so many fish left in the sea. Some types of fish are threatened by being over-fished. “Sustainable aquaculture” has a very important role to play in meeting our need for fish. We can play our part by buying from responsibly managed sources and being aware.
While we may enjoy eating all different kinds of fish, some are even healthier than others
Fish is a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids and a diet rich in fish oil can go a long way to help reduce inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Those omega-3 fatty acids are also good for brain and eye development while reducing problems associated with PMS, memory loss and colon cancer and lowering blood pressure.
Other ways in which we can get our supply of omega-3 fatty acids are through plant sources such as canola oil, flax seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.
We get three different types of fish
- Oily fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring, tuna and mackerel can even prevent conditions like Alzheimer's and strokes. Oily fish is also a good source of vitamins A and D.
- White fish is low in fat and includes haddock, plaice, pollack, coley and cod, provides a healthier low-fat alternative to red or processed meat. White fish does contain some omega 3 fatty acids but lower levels that the other two groups of fish.
- Shellfish which is also low in fat, gives us selenium, zinc, iodine and copper and includes prawns, mussels, lobster, oysters, squid and crab. Shellfish is also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
But a problem these days is that nearly all fish is contaminated with trace amounts of mercury and those found to have the highest levels of this are swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and larger sharks. Safer alternatives are shrimp, pollock, canned light tuna, salmon and catfish. While most of us can eliminate any mercury from our bodies, children and pregnant or nursing mothers can be at risk. It is also important to know that the health benefits of eating oily fish far outweigh the risks as long as you don't eat more than the recommended maximum amount. This is 4 portions per week for men, boys and women (who wont have a baby in the future) while a maximum of 2 portions is recommended for girls and pregnant and nursing mothers.
When you are buying fresh fish (and we don't all get the chance), remember 3 golden rules
- Smell it
- Observe it and if you are not going to eat it that day...
- Freeze it
Buy from a reputable source and take it straight home. Fresh fish should actually not smell fishy or strong, the eyes should look bright and the flesh feel firm. If you are not going to eat it virtually straight away then freeze it until you are ready to cook. One way to thaw frozen fish is to cover with fresh milk and leave in the fridge overnight.
Take a little effort when cooking your fish; it is done when the flesh is no long translucent and flakes even at the thickest part. For a healthier choice, go for steamed, baked or grilled fish or shellfish rather than fried. This is because frying makes fish and shellfish much higher in fat. Of course, a batter will further increase that fat.
Remember that seafood supplements our diets with many nutrients that are not available in other foods. Although mercury can be a problem for some, fish remains an excellent food source – we should all be eating more!