A Dish of Fish

By Jane Sylvestre, RD - 10/6/2015

A Dish of Fish

One of the greatest challenges of our patients is getting enough protein from a solid source that is tolerated well.  The best solution to this problem is adding more fish to your diet.  Fish is one of the best tolerated sources of protein.  Not only is it tolerated well, but fish offers great nutritional benefit.

Of course, it offers protein.  Fish provides about 7 grams of protein per ounce which is equivalent to what you would get from an ounce of meat.  Remember, the palm of your hand or the size of a deck of cards is about 3 ounces.  Most patients can only tolerate up to an ounce of meat at once, but may be able to tolerate a couple ounces of fish because fish is digested and absorbed much more easily that meats, yet, fish still helps keep you satisfied.  All proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrate which is why they are so beneficial for helping to keep you full and promote weight loss. 

Another benefit of fish is the omega 3 fatty acids.  This is a type of fat in fish that is beneficial for heart disease because it decreases blood clotting, blood pressure, vessel constriction, triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood) and it also helps with irregular heartbeats.  The best sources of Omega 3 comes from the fattier fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and tuna although some omega 3 can be found in every fish.  Keep in mind that not only are you getting more of a healthier fat, but you are getting less of a saturated (or artery clogging fat) from meats because the fish would be replacing a serving of meat for you.  Let’s not forget the other nutrition benefits of fish including calcium, selenium and vitamin D.

Should I get farm raised or wild caught fish?  This is a question that has been up for debate for many, many years.  There are pros and cons to both.  In a nutshell, the farm raised fish tend to be higher in antibiotics, PCP’s & hormones.  They have higher disease rates and are bad for the environment.   In general, the fish are kept in small spaces, have a higher rate of fecal contamination which results in increases disease and have exposure to more chemicals as farmers try to keep the water clean and the fish more attractive looking and bigger.  The wild caught fish tend to be a little leaner and may be higher in mercury. 

The highest levels of mercury are found in the larger fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and golden bass.  The average person is not at risk of mercury overload, but the unborn child and young children can be affected.  Mercury can affect the development of the brain and nervous system.  For that reason, pregnant women and young children should limit all fish to 12 ounces per week, canned tuna to 6 ounces per week and should avoid all the high mercury fish noted above.  Adults should enjoy a recommended 2 servings of 3.5 ounces per week of a mixture of different kinds of fish.  This could be 3-5 times per week if one is only able to eat 1-2 ounces per serving. 

Fish can be a little daunting to prepare if you are not a chef; however cooking fish can be so easy and quick.  Try broiling your fish.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees if electric; no need to preheat gas stoves.  Keep top rack 4-5 inches below flame.  Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil spray so the fish does not stick.  Lay fish skin side down and fold the thinner side over itself so the whole fish is the same thickness.  Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, dill or any fresh herbs.  I love putting balsamic vinegar on salmon.  Broil at 10 minutes per inch of fish (thickness).  Use a thermometer to check for doneness.  The internal temp should reach 145 degrees; the fish should be opaque and flaky when broken apart with a fork.  Enjoy.  The above directions are played in a video from the academy of nutrition and Dietetics at the following link:  http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/broil-fish

Cooking fish can be easy as demonstrated above.  Try to eat fish at least 1-2 times per week.  Wild caught is preferred.  Limit portions of fish if pregnant and for young children as well.  See above for guidelines.  Hope you enjoy your dish of fish!

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