Eating fish for health
Fish is a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals, and a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help to protect against a range of diseases, from cancer to heart disease, depression to arthritis.
For example, Australia’s leading health research body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), suggests that Australians should eat more fish. This is because fish is low in fat, high in protein and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers worldwide have discovered that eating fish regularly – one or two serves weekly – may reduce the risk of diseases ranging from childhood asthma to prostate cancer. Healthy ways to enjoy fish include baked, poached, grilled and steamed.
No wonder the Government wants us all to eat more, with the Food Standards Agency recommending at least two portions a week of fresh, frozen, or tinned seafood (one of them of oily fish).
The British Heart Foundation says eating oily fish can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your chances of survival following a heart attack.
Fish does this by lowering levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood – raised levels are associated with heart disease. Fish oils also appear to help reduce blood clotting and abnormal heart rhythms after a heart attack.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in many fish may prevent damage to brain cells. Eating fish can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is linked with dementia.
A French study of 2000 people showed that those who ate seafood at least once a week had a significantly lower risk of dementia over a seven-year period than those who didn’t.
A Swedish study of 6000 men over a 30-year period showed that those who didn’t eat any fish had between double and treble the risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to those who ate moderate or large amounts. Shellfish, such as crab and lobster, also contains selenium, thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
It’s been reported that fish can help to ease depression. Again, it’s down to omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to raise levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
Population groups that eat a lot of fish – Inuits in Greenland, for example – have low rates of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Studies have also shown fish oils to be useful in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
According to research carried out in Mauritius, children given lots of fish from< the age of three are less likely to have criminal records by the time they reach 23.
According to dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, author of The Perricone Prescription, a salmon-packed diet can help smooth out age lines.
Which fish to eat
1. White fish like cod are a good source of low-fat protein and minerals.
2. Oily fish such as sardines, pilchards, salmon and mackerel have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Crab, lobster and mussels come into the shellfish group and contain selenium, thought to have cancer-fighting properties.
The following are approximate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids per 60g serve of varieties of fish:
– Salmon (fresh Atlantic) 1,200mg
– Smoked salmon 1,000mg
– Canned salmon 500mg
– Sardines 1,500mg
– Trout (fresh rainbow) 350mg
– Gemfish 300mg
– Blue-eye, shark (flake), salmon, squid 250mg
– Scallop or calamari 200mg
– Sea mullet, abalone 170mg
– Canned tuna 145mg
– Orange roughy or sea perch 7mg.
Healthy ways to cook fish
Healthy ways to cook fish include:
Baking – make shallow cuts along the top of the fish. Put into a greased dish and cover with foil. Flavour with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. Bake at around 180°C and baste frequently.
Shallow frying – dry and flour the fish. Place a small amount of oil or butter in the pan. Fry the fish at a medium heat.
Grilling – cut slashes into whole fish to help the heat penetrate the flesh. Place fish on a preheated grill. Baste frequently.
Poaching – not suitable for flaky varieties. Place fish in gently simmering stock. Whole fish should be placed in a pan of cold stock, which is then slowly brought up to a gentle simmer.
Steaming – put fish in a steamer or on a plate over a saucepan containing gently boiling water. Cover.
Cooking times for fresh fish
To estimate the cooking time of a fresh piece of fish, measure the meat at its thickest part. Suggested cooking times include:
– One cm thick – bake for 3 minutes, shallow fry for 4 minutes, grill for 5 minutes, poach for 8 minutes, steam for 3 minutes.
– Two cm thick – bake for 11 minutes, shallow fry for 7 minutes, grill for 6 minutes, poach for 10 minutes, steam for 7 minutes.
– Three cm thick – bake for 15 minutes, shallow fry for 10 minutes, grill for 9 minutes, poach for 12 minutes, steam for 11 minutes.
– Four cm thick – bake for 20 minutes, shallow fry for 13 minutes, grill for 11 minutes, poach for 13 minutes, steam for 14 minutes.
Cooking times for frozen fish
To estimate the cooking time of a frozen piece of fish, measure the meat at its thickest part. Suggested cooking times include:
– One cm thick – bake for 17 minutes, shallow fry for 7 minutes, grill for 12 minutes, poach for 10 minutes, steam for 5 minutes.
– Two cm thick – bake for 22 minutes, shallow fry for 11 minutes, grill for 15 minutes, poach for 15 minutes, steam for 11 minutes.
– Three cm thick – bake for 35 minutes, shallow fry for 15 minutes, grill for 24 minutes, poach for 22 minutes, steam for 13 minutes.
– Four cm thick – bake for 39 minutes, shallow fry for 18 minutes, grill for 28 minutes, poach for 28 minutes, steam for 16 minutes.