Know Your Fish: The Good, the Bad, and the Fatty

Little changes – like the fish you choose – can have a big impact on your meal. Find out about healthy options to replace your fatty favorites.

Are some fish better for you than others? Believe it or not some are, and here’s how to switch out your bad fats for good in your fishy favorites.

Is fried fish healthy?

In most cases, a Friday "Fish 'n Chips" special is eaten out or made at home using frozen battered fish. Many would believe that eating fish would be a healthier option than eating meat, but how the fish is prepared is really the key. The classic fish ’n chips recipe is loaded with added and unhealthy fats like trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils from the frying and manufacturing process. They also lack the essential super healthy omega-3 fats.

Try this healthy alternative recipe: Grilled Salmon with Roasted Steak Fries

Why do omega-3s matter?

Omega-3s are poly-unsaturated fats that can help lower triglycerides (fat in the blood) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Having adequate omega-3’s is thought to also help reduce the frequency of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain, and other rheumatoid problems.

Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, maintain the integrity of the circulatory systems and protect you from Alzheimer's disease. Compare these benefits to the effects of the trans-fats found in prepared battered fish: trans-fats raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Consequently, a regular intake of trans-fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Trans-fats also are associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Choosing the right ingredients

What kind of fish?
A classic fried fish is usually made with haddock or cod. These fish contain a limited amount of omega-3s compared to salmon. Salmon contains between 1-1.5 grams per 100 grams (3oz.), whereas haddock and cod contain between 0.1-0.3 grams for the same portion size.

Vegetable oil or olive oil?
By switching out vegetable oil for olive oil, you gain polyphenols which protect the heart and blood vessels from inflammation. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are anti-inflammatory agents that can lower your risk of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Spiced or battered?
By opting to cover the fish in spices like turmeric rather than batter, you can also cut out some unhealthy trans-fats while enhancing the flavor and healing properties. Turmeric’s health benefits come from its active ingredient curcumin; which is a very potent antioxidant. Recent research claims that curcumin slows the spread of cancer and growth of new tumor blood vessels, decreases inflammation and even causes cancer cells to die. It also has properties that protect against arthritis, tumors, cervical cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and may interfere with the replication process of the HIV virus.

French fry alternatives
Sweet potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, beta-carotene (vitamin A), and vitamins C and B6. A single sweet potato provides a full day’s worth of vitamin A and a third of your daily vitamin C needs. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants which function to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer.

If these are all the possible benefits of making a one-meal facelift, imagine the impact of including a simple “healthy change” at every meal!

Find more healthy recipes and alternatives at Sensei

About the author

Josee Derrien, RD

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