For many of us, fish is the last thing we order at a restaurant unless it is dipped in batter and deep fried until golden brown or served raw with sticky rice. However, there are many other ways to enjoy the delicate flavors of fish and even better reasons to benefit your overall health.
Is fish good for you? In a word, yes. Although there is much in the news about the mercury levels in fatty fish and the diseases in farm raised salmon, the benefits of eating fish still outweigh the negative.
Fish, especially fatty species such as salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut and sardines, are a rich source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids – nutrients the body cannot produce on its own so must attain from the foods we eat.
The FDA recommends eating fish two to three times a week as Omega 3 EFAs have been linked with:
- Lowering the incident of asthma in school age children
- Reduces blood clots and inflammation thus lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Decreases blood fats and high blood pressure by lowering the levels of bad cholesterol while increasing the levels of good cholesterol
- Fish and Omega 3 is brain food – it helps to lower the incidents of Dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s in the elderly
- Depression is linked to low levels of Omega 3 in the brain so increasing the consumption of fish actually improves your overall mood and outlook on life
- Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory so aids in all types of arthritis as well as any other inflammatory disease or condition
- Fish and Omega 3 have been found to help moderate blood sugar levels in diabetics making it easier to manage the disease
- Pregnant woman who consume fish during their pregnancy have less incidents of giving birth prematurely and their babies will likely have better eyesight then those babies born from women who did not consume enough Omega 3 throughout all three terms
- Omega 3 fatty acids help with brain function as well as keeping our retinas happy and healthy
However, what about the concern with mercury levels in these same fatty fish that are so high in Omega 3? Should we be concerned?
Mercury and Your Fish
The reason these fish are high in mercury is that they live longer then the average fish allowing for more of the pollutant to be absorbed into their flesh. Fish that are of concern are swordfish, marlin, shark, ling, orange roughy and southern blue fin tuna so intake of these fish should be limited to once or twice a week and entirely avoided by women that are pregnant or nursing.
The same goes for many of the bottom feeding fish such as sole, halibut and catfish as the risk of them ingesting toxins is greater then fish that feed at the surface of the water.
Farmed vs Wild
Farmed salmon is an extremely controversial subject and it is hard to say what is best – treating fish as another form of livestock or endangering the quantities of wild salmon by over fishing. Farmed salmon do not have as much Omega 3 in their flesh as wild salmon and the levels of antibiotics given to these fish is alarmingly high. Farmed salmon are also almost exclusively the Atlantic variety and when they escape from their nets, they risk damaging the delicate wild stocks in the Pacific. Wild salmon stock has been brought back from the brink of extinction and although the numbers are growing, they are not yet out of the woods. So what is an environmentally conscious, fish eating person supposed to do with this conundrum? Enjoy wild salmon once a week and leave the farmed variety alone.
Beyond Omega 3: The Non-fatty Fish
The non-fatty types of fish are nutritious in other ways. Species such as sole, cod, trout, pollack, bass, flounder and tilapia to name a few are low fat, high protein food choices that are suitable for most types of diets. Moderate in salt and cholesterol, fish is rich in amino acids, potassium and iron and an excellent replacement for red meat if you are concerned about heart disease, cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Most fish has a light flavor and delicate flesh making it meld well with many cooking styles as it takes on whatever seasoning or foods with which it is cooked. Usually delicate flavors work best and lemon is often the seasoning of choice – if all else fails, a little lemon makes a fish dish soar!
The Benefits Make Fish the Number One Choice
With everything, moderation is the key to good health and a long life and your diet is no different. Consuming fatty-fish one to two times a week is highly recommended, as the ingestion of Omega 3 fatty acids is essential to good health meanwhile enjoy the non-fatty, protein rich species as often as you desire. Not sure how to prepare the meal? Search for recipes online – fish is a versatile and easy dinner that goes with almost anything.
Healthy, delicious fish – enjoy it and know you are doing your body a favor!