We hear it all over – “Eat More Fish”, “Fish is an important part of your diet”, “Kids need fish for brain development” “Fish is important for heart health” and on and on. But what are the facts? First lets make one blanket definition. Fish does not necessarily mean/include seafood. These are two different food categories. In fact, seafood is actually both shellfish – like shrimp, crab, oysters, lobster – and regular fish – like tuna, halibut, swordfish – that are from sea water. However there are shellfish – like crayfish – and fish – like trout, catfish – that live in fresh water. Some people use the blanket term when talking about all of this, while other are very specific. And still others are actually referring to fish oils and not exactly fish meat, which is what we mostly eat. So the lesson is that you should be clear on what “fish” means to the person or company making the claims.
“Omega-3 Fatty Acids are good for the heart” This is absolutely true. Study after study has proven that an adequate intake of Omega-3 fatty acids will increase your heart health. You can find Omega-3 in the fatty fishes like mackerel or salmon, or you can opt to take it in pill form.
“Fish is a great source of protein” Fish contains what people in nutrition world call “complete proteins”. This means that they contain a complete collection of amino acids and therefore provide great tissue development in your body. This is important for gaining muscle mass as well as brain development in children.
“Avoid fish consumption due to mercury intake” This was a statement made back in 2004 and was actually only meant to be directed at young children (under the age of 5) and pregnant and nursing woman. The rest of us really don’t need to worry about it as long the fish is fresh and from clean waters.
“Fish is high in cholesterol and while raise my blood cholesterol” This one is only half false. It is true that fish is high in cholesterol; however it is not the type that will increase your blood cholesterol. The type that is not good comes from trans fats and saturated fats, which is not what fish has.
Important to Keep in Mind
Fish and seafood, needs to be fresh or frozen very soon after catching. When you are going to purchase fish, you want to make sure that it is still very cold, that the eyes are clear (if still attached) and that there is no graying around the edges of the meat.
Fish is something that needs to be properly prepared. Sushi is great, but must be made with the appropriate types of fish as well as handled properly. It is always smart of follow a recipe when preparing a new fish dish. For more tips on proper food handing read this article: Food Poisoning: How to Avoid it.
When buying canned/bagged fishes (tuna, specifically) be conscious of how it was packaged as well as what type of fish it is. When buying tuna, your healthiest choice is to choose Albacore Chuck Tuna in WATER. Many canned/bagged fishes are packed in oil, which pretty much negates the healthy choice.
Having said all this, I want to encourage you to trade out at least one meal a week for something centered on fish. Tuna Noodle Casserole is probably the easiest meal you can throw together – cooked whole wheat wide noodles, cream of chicken/mushroom/broccoli or cheddar cheese soup (healthy request version of course), canned tuna, and a veggie (peas, broccoli) all mixed together and baked at 350deg for 25-30minutes – delish!