* This is part of a year-long weekly series called “52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever”. Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.
My parents fed us a pretty healthy diet growing up. We ate our share of “Little Debbie” snack cakes and pizza, like most kids, but for the most part we ate good, and always had plenty of fruits and vegetables and homemade meals. When it comes to fish though, I remember occasionally going to eat at Long John Silver’s when I was young, and loving to wear the pirate hats they gave little kids. It was smart marketing ploy, and the best tasting thing on the menu was the “crispies”- the little pieces of fried batter. Yum!
Of course, as I have gotten older and wiser, I’ve tried to cut out most fried food and don’t miss “crispies.” Fried fish is not as unhealthy as French fries, but anything fried brings destabilizing fats into the bloodstream, disrupting your cholesterol levels and causing inflammation in the body. Over time, this can add up night time. I still eat fries or chips on occasion, and fried fish every now and then, but not often. To put it simply, fried food should be mostly avoided. It’s not good for you, and has little redeeming value. Fried food has the type of fats in it which are linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I know fish and chips taste good, but it should be a rare menu item, not a common one.
Though deep fried- fish is not really a healthy option, pan-fried is better. If you’re going to fry, use a lighter unsaturated oil like sunflower, soybean, canola, or peanut oil and cook at medium heat with little or no batter. Even better than that is to eat fish which hasn’t been fried. Fish is one of the best things you can eat on a regular basis, and it’s best to shoot for at least once per week and preferably aim to eat it 2 times per week.
The bottom line: Fish is high in anti-inflammatory Omega 3 Fatty Acids, also called polyunsaturated fats, or essential fatty acids, which are the types of fats which decrease inflammation in the body, including in the blood vessels, possibly lowering LDL cholesterol in many people. This could impact all sorts of disease development. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, triglycerides, blood pressure, and clotting.
Whenever your body experiences damage or illness, inflammation occurs because of the immune response. This is good because we need this to stay alive! Inflammation brings in more blood flow, swelling in some cases, the proliferation of cells, and things like white blood cells to aid in recovery. This inflammation which is good and needed at first can get out of hand, and go on and ultimately do damage and may even contribute to disease. These Omega 3 fatty acids help to create an anti-inflammatory response in your body which opposes the proliferation of unhealthy responses.
Fish can in turn help you live longer and be healthier, particularly cold water fish. Fresh water is better for you than farm-raised because of potential contaminants in farm-raised fish but it’s more expensive. Sardines, tuna, sea bass, trout, and salmon among other fish are good options, and it’s better to avoid the bigger fish if you’re concerned about mercury because larger fish contain more mercury. Pregnant women should avoid fish for this reason. Flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans, and soybean oil are also high in Omega 3s but don’t seem to be as good for you as fish.
P.S. Give sardines a try. Trust me, I know many people turn up their noses, but on a piece of toasted multi-grain bread or a cracker, with lemon juice, and / or avocado, they are tasty!
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