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Reel in the heart benefits of fish

Reel in the heart benefits of fish
By Alyssa Rolnick, RD, MHSc.

Alyssa Rolnick, RDMost fish are delicious and nutritious, rich in protein and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish is so good for your heart that Canada’s Food Guide recommends that everyone, including children and pregnant women, consume at least two servings of fish or seafood each week. A serving is 125 mL/75 g (1/2 cup/2.5 oz) about the size of the palm of your hand.

Because there are so many varieties of fish and seafood available, here are some tips to help you select the healthiest types and ways to enjoy eating them.

How to buy fish Whenever you can, purchase fresh fish and seafood the day you plan to cook it. Shop at a local grocery store or fish market you trust. For quick preparation, the best way to buy fish is in fillet or steak form. Fresh fish should be firm and when the flesh is touched it should spring back. The fish should not have a strong fishy smell – only a slightly salty or freshwater scent. Also, avoid buying seafood that has been in the display case for too long – look for the packing date.

Fish and seafood that has been frozen by the waterside is a good alternative to fresh. Buying fish fillets that have been individually frozen will allow you to defrost just what you need for one meal. Make sure to defrost overnight in the refrigerator; avoid re-freezing already thawed fish.

How to prepare fish Many fish recipes can be cooked quickly and easily. Try to bake, broil, steam or grill fish, which is healthier than fried or heavily sauced dishes. Here are some recipe ideas for cooking with fish that even the non-fish eater will enjoy.

Fish and mercury All fish contain a small amount of mercury, which is fine for most people. However, some varieties can be a concern for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children because of their high mercury levels. They include tuna (Ahi, canned albacore and yellowfin), orange roughy, swordfish and seabass. It is suggested to either avoid eating these varieties or consume less than three servings per month. Some fish with moderate levels of mercury include tuna (canned chunk light), snapper, halibut, cod and lobster. Try to consume these less than six servings per month. Opt for fish with low levels of mercury such as salmon, haddock, trout, herring, scallop and crab. As well, some freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than do fatty saltwater fish. So be aware of the type of fish you eat. For more information, go to Health Canada’s fish guide.  

Breakfast Certain varieties of fish go well with egg dishes such as scrambled eggs, omelets and hashed potatoes. Try our recipe for trout frittata made with egg whites. I enjoy eating open-faced tuna melts for Sunday morning brunches. Spread a slice of whole-wheat bread with homemade tuna salad and melt overtop a slice of your favourite low-fat cheese in the toaster oven or broiler. Jazz it up by adding a slice of red onion and tomato, too.

Lunch For an alternative to tuna or salmon salad sandwiches, try lightly seasoning and sautéeing your favourite kind of white fish or use crab and wrap it burrito-style or pop it in a taco. Try our fish and vegetable chowder recipe and bring leftovers to work in a thermos.

Dinner Fish is so versatile that it lends itself to a variety of flavours. We enjoy marinating salmon in low-sodium teriyaki sauce or using a homemade vinaigrette or lemon juice, crushed garlic and parsley on tilapia, cod or haddock. Try our healthy twist on a classic recipe for tuna noodle casserole. There is so much flavour in this recipe; you can hardly taste the fish. Looking for an elegant but easy meal, try our pistachio crusted whitefish recipe and make a fish lover out of anyone.

Last reviewed: March 2011

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