Fish is one of those foods that one minute you hear, "It's fantastic for you" and five minutes later hear, "Oh, but it can make you sick". Oddly both are true.
Fish is fantastic for you, as you can see here in a summary from the American Heart Association: "Fish is a good source of protein and, unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly)."
Nice huh? Then of course there is the other side which mainly comes from the amount of damage that humans have done to the eco-system. Between oil spills, toxic dumping and other garbage disposal, the world waters aren't as clean as they once were. The biggest concern is mercury. This toxin can really build up in predatory sea creatures such as sharks and sword fish, mainly because they eat smaller fish who have been tainted on a smaller scale by mercury and it builds up in the system.
Pregnant women and children are most at risk for these side effects, so you should check with your doctor. But the benefits greatly outweigh the concerns if you are middle age or older (male and female) or a heart patient. There are three keys to minimizing your chance of over-exposure: choose non-predatory fish - canned light tuna (in water), salmon, pollock and catfish are some; mix-up your fish choices, if you really want to eat swordfish, make it a treat, not every week; eat fish just 2-3 times a week, studies show that's enough to help create the positive reactions you want in your body and limit your chance of a mercury build-up.
Now, all of that being said, fish scares people. I don't just mean sharks and ugly bullheads. I mean preparing fish throws people off, especially in land locked Iowa. We didn't grow up having the ocean within reach and many of us grew up with little knowledge of fish if it didn't come in a can or from the local lake. Plus, we tend to wrongly believe fish is bland, it's often been thrown on our plate poached or fish-sticked, there is so much more.
Better Homes and Gardens has done a wonderful job of answering your fish handling questions. From telling if fish is fresh to cleaning shrimp, it's all in one place. Plus, they have a full site with recipes that will help fish be anything but broiled, tasteless and boring. The picture to the left is tasty 'Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon', um, yum.
The case for fish and yesterday's topic, tea, has been being made for a few years now by scientists studying life expectancies. Every time they looked around the world to see who was living the longest, Japan came to the head of the class. While there are a few 'micro-countries', like Monaco that are a bit longer, Japan is the only major country in the top 5.
Researchers have determined that the Japanese diet, which is high in fish and tea, is the key to their longevity. U.S. life expectancy - 78.4 years (when averaged between men and women) is 49th worldwide; Japan's expectancy is 82.17. That's nearly four years difference and with equal medical advances available in both countries, diet really is key. Well, that and the Japanese deal with stress differently than we do, but that's for another blog.
I hope this helps answer some of your questions about fish. It really is a great diet staple, especially when you are trying to lose weight - you see it is also lower in calories. :)
Yours in Health,