Fish for Healthy Eating
It is hard to beat fish and seafood for high protein and low fat. Fish has been shown in study after study to have a positive impact on health, and to lower the risk of heart disease and other diseases. In addition, fish is delicious and easy to prepare.
Many nutrition experts recommend eating fish at least once or twice every week. The most nutritious varieties of fish, and those that contain the greatest amounts of heart protecting omega-3 fatty acids, tend to be those that live in cold ocean waters. These varieties of fish include salmon and sardines.
The benefits of eating more fish in your diet:
Fish has long been thought to have a positive benefit on the heart. So far the results of clinical studies have been inconclusive, but research into the heart healthy effects of fish continues. No matter what the benefits, there is little doubt that fish is a healthy food, containing significant levels of protein and smaller amounts of fat and calories than other types of meat.
Fish is one of the best sources of protein available. We all require protein for building muscles and repairing damaged body tissues. Protein also plays a vital role in the growth of nails and hair, in hormone production and in many other vital bodily processes.
In addition to fish, many other animal based products, such as meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products, contain significant amounts of protein. Plant based sources of protein exist as well, in nuts, beans and lentils, among others.
The key to getting sufficient protein in the diet is to balance the healthy effects of protein on the diet against the large amounts of fat and cholesterol that protein rich foods often contain. The combination of high protein and low fat is one of the things that makes a diet rich in fish so appealing.
With the exception of salmon, almost all commonly eaten varieties of fish are very low in fat, and even salmon contains lower levels of fat than many varieties of meats. In addition, fish is low in saturated fat, the type of fat that is most associated with heart disease and clogged arteries.
Fish is low in unsaturated fat because of the nature of where and how they live. Instead of storing energy in the form of saturated fat as land animals do, fish store their fat in the form of polyunsaturated oils. That adaptation allows their bodies to function normally in the cool oceans and streams where they swim. It also makes them a great choice for anyone seeking to cut levels of saturated fat in the diet.
For all these reasons, fish remains an important part of any low fat, heart healthy lifestyle. Substituting high fat, greasy foods like hamburgers and ribs is a great way to make a change for healthy living.
One note about fish and pollution, however. It is true that many fish caught in polluted waters contain high levels of mercury. While most commercially caught and grown fish is low in mercury, it is important for fisherman to limit their consumption of locally caught fish. Pregnant women are also advised to limit their intake of fish, due to the potential harm to the baby.
Fitting Fish into your Healthy Lifestyle:
Believe it or not, some people avoid fish because they do not know how to prepare and cook it. Although fish can present more of a challenge for the inexperienced cook, there are many recipes and cookbooks that make preparation a breeze. In addition, many packaged seafood products contain cooking tips and serving suggestions that take some of the mystery out of preparing a nutritious and delicious meal of fresh fish.
Even those who do not cook, however, can enjoy the many benefits of fish in the diet. There are a number of canned seafood products on the market, including canned salmon, sardines and the ever popular tuna. So there is no reason fish cannot fit into your healthy eating plan.
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