By Laura Slatalla, recent ASU Nutrition Communication Student
You’ve probably heard at one point or another that taking fish oil capsules are good for you. But, if you don’t want oily fish burps then work towards eating actual fish two or three meals throughout the week. I always struggle to incorporate fish into my diet, but we need at least 2 servings a week, which is what is recommended by the American Heart Association to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, the number one cause of death in adult Americans.
Fish is a healthy protein full of vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, vitamin A, the B vitamins (3, 6, 12), vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids. Keep in mind, these are found in oily fish like salmon, trout, kipper, fresh tuna, and swordfish.
Here’s some of the benefits of fish:
Great for your heart! Adding fish to your diet will decrease your saturated fat intake and lower your cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids are also found in fish and heart healthy, and can be difficult to obtain without eating fish. Lowering cholesterol will prevent buildup in your arteries and help reduce risk of heart disease.
Important for teeth and bones: The vitamin D in fish helps the body preserve the calcium in your bones, which keeps bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Good for skin and eyes: The vitamin A in fish is used to help us see at night and keeps our skin healthy. It’s used in cell division and differentiation, so it keeps our skin new and fresh.
Contains an antioxidant: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. It donates an electron to stabilize the free radical and stop its destructive path. Otherwise it would bump into other healthy cells and hurt them.
Contains multiple B vitamins: B vitamins are used in metabolism and keeps our nervous system healthy. They are used in the pathways that give us energy to move and stay active. Vitamin B6 is beneficial to the nervous system, so in conjunction with the omega 3’s, which are also good for the brain, you are giving your brain a boost!
Not everyone grew up eating fish every week, so we may need to work to make it a regular part of our diets. Let’s begin with choosing our fish. Check for freshness, firmness, and smell. It shouldn’t smell super fishy, and the fish shouldn’t be soft. It needs to be resilient and firm. The color should be pink or white, but not brown. Less than fresh fish could deter your exploring.
Start with some of the blander fish, like cod or halibut. It won’t scare any one away from fish, and once you’re used to it you can move on to more varieties. Order it while eating out too. When someone else cooks it you have the opportunity to try out different seasonings and cooking methods and have something to compare home cooking to.
Oily fish are good when paired with citrus flavors, garlic, chili, and ginger. One of my favorite ways to eat fish is really simple- just squeeze a lemon wedge over the fish. Switch up the cooking methods too. Instead of baking, try pan frying it, making fish tacos, pairing it with colorful vegetables, or putting it on a kabob.
Now that we’re ready to cook some fish- a word of caution. Watch out for the fish that have a lot of mercury in them, like king mackerel and swordfish. The larger predatory fish contain more mercury and can be bad for adults, and especially children and pregnant women. Keep this in mind when selecting fish, and enjoy your light and tasty protein!