Why seafood?

Seafood is low in saturated fat (the kind that leads to heart attacks) and cholesterol. It is high in protein and low in calories. Four ounces of white-fleshed fish provides about half your daily protein requirement at a cost of just over 100 calories. Despite the fact that many fish live in saltwater, they are low in sodium (they have osoregulators that keep the saltwater out). And seafood is a great source of vitamins and minerals, since the flesh contains most of the elements present in seawater.

It contains a kind of polyunsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids reduce the tendency of the blood to form clots. Clots pushing through narrow coronary arteries are the main cause of heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids raise blood levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, and lower levels of blood triglycerides.

Seafood has a bonus – omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent depression. Research suggests that in countries where seafood is the main part of the diet, fewer people suffer from depression. When depressed patients reduced fat by eating seafood, they reduced their incidence of depression. But patients who cut back on fat by switching to plant fats did not lower their rate of depression.

Can’t you just take a pill ?

Fish Oil supplements aren’t as good for you as eating fish. In the first place, the capsules themselves have calories. Second, You probably will increase your fat intake because You are eating something else instead of fish. A problem for women is that the pills are too potent. Since the fatty acids keep blood from clotting, excessive blood may be lost during menstruation. Finally, the pills don’t have the vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in fish.

You don’t have to give up other foods to get the benefits of seafood. Studies show that eating fish once or twice a week gives as much Protection as eating it six times a week.

How safe is it?

Our waterways have become dumping grounds for substances such as PCBs, dioxins, and radioactive elements and metals; and these toxins may appear in fish. Once poisons get into an animal’s body, they often accumulate to dangerous levels. New regulations passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994, however, give consumers assurance that their seafood is safe.

How can you tell freshness?

Look for a store with a good seafood department, and a dealer you can trust. The seafood in the display case should be packed in ice and have firm flesh, shiny scales, red gills, and bright, protruding eyes. Seafood should smell like a fresh ocean breeze, not fishy.

Seafood falls into two categories: fish with fins (such as flounder and salmon) and shellfish (those that have shells, such as oysters, scallops, and shrimp). Seafood comes in many states of preparedness – whole, with the insides and scales; cleaned, with the head and tail still on; filleted, cut away from the ribs and back-bone; or as a steak. Don’t assume that a fish labeled “previously frozen” is inferior. A lot of seafood is flash-frozen while the fishing boat is still at sea, and these may be the freshest of all.

Ask questions, and you’ll find that the fish dealer will be happy to give you advice, cooking tips, and recipes.

How do I cook it?

Seafood is a very versatile food. It can be broiled, baked, steamed, poached, sauteed, used in a stew, covered with a sauce, cooked in a pastry crust, or served cold in a salad.

Possibly the worst thing you can do to fish is overcook it. Many chefs count on the Canadian 10-Minute Rule for baking at 450 degrees, broiling, grilling, steaming, or poaching fish. It’s easy to remember: Measure the thickest part of the fish and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Double the time for frozen fish

Boil shellfish for a few minutes in water. Shrimp and lobster are done when they are pink or red. Shells of clams, oysters, and mussels pop open when they are done. Scallops turn opaque and firm.

Lighten up

You can make your fish dishes even lighter by using yogurt instead of mayonnaise and buying tuna that is packed in water, not oil, Shellfish are low in calories but high in cholesterol. Enjoy them, but in moderation. Be careful when eating out, especially at fast food restaurants. Much of their fish is fried in saturated fats and is coated with high-calorie breading.

Different parts of the country prepare fish in different ways: Northern cooks boil and poach; Southern cooks fry and stew their fish; Midwestern cooks broil and bake; while East and West Coast chefs prepare shellfish and deep-sea fish delicacies to please their customers.

However you eat it, fish is a dish you can savor.

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