Sunday, April 26, 2009

Benefits of Eating Fish and Shellfish

There are many benefits to eating fish on a regular basis whether it is wild or farmed. Studies have shown that people who eat fish at least once per week significantly lower their risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have also shown that fish is beneficial for the developing fetal and infant brain.

Health benefits related to cardiovascular disease have been associated to the consumption of fish and to some extent attributed to omega-3 fatty acids. All fish, but particularly "fatty or oily fish" such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout (rainbow) and sardines contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids do not account alone for all the reported benefits. Methods of preparation may negate any benefits such as when fish is fried and also sandwich fish does not contribute to cardiovascular benefits. Other choices to include in a healthy diet are: anchovy, basa, caelin, char, cod, haddock, hake, mullet, pollack, smelt, sole and tuna (light, canned).

Fish is an excellent source of protein, calcium and minerals such as phosphorus, iron, selenium, potassium and vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, which are all inportant for achieving and maintaining good health.

Shellfish can also contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. Shellfish including, mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, oysters, lobster, and abalone are low in calories and saturated fats, and are excellent sources of protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids. Also, shellfish, like fish contribute to health by providing essential minerals and vitamins such as iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B12.

Consumers' Concerns

Today there are concerns about the levels of mercury found in , both wild and farmed fish and seafood, Health Canada studies have shown there are trace amounts of mercury found in all types of fish and seafood. Mercury being a natural element found in soil, rocks, streams and oceans and also with human activities, such as pulp and paper processing, mining operations, and burning fossils fuels all attribute to higher levels of mercury being found in the environment. Mercury tends to accumulate in the food chain, so large, predatory fish species are at risk of higher levels; these include fresh/frozen tuna, swordfish, shark, escolar, marlin, orange roughy, fresh or frozen tuna.

In recent years there has been concerns over the amounts of PCBs found in farmed salmon and as no contaminant is desirable in our food supply, Health Canada researches and determines levels at which a contaminant does not pose a risk to human health. Canada Health and the Canadian Food Inspection agency (CFIA) work together to provide one of the safest food supply systems in the world for those who live in Canada. This includes fish and seafood both wild and farmed that are available for retail sale.

Raw Fish and Sushi

Raw (sashumi) and undercooked fish and shellfish can carry harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites. Seniors, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, including sushi. Sushi made with well-washed vegetables and/or cooked lower mercury fish is fine for everyone.

Bottom Line

Choosing a variety of fish, salmon and shellfish in a well-balanced diet benefits heart health. The benefits may outweigh the risk of getting cancer when eating farmed salmon. Also try the following tips:
  • Trim the skin and visible fat from your fish, since PCBs are stored in the fat portion.
  • Prepare your salmon in a way that reduces a significant portion of fat, such as grilling and broiling.
  • Try canned salmon, since almost all of them are wild salmon.

Guidelines for Fish and Seafood Consumption

Canada's Food Guide recommends two servings of fish per week. It is important to remember that women of child-bearing age, pregnant, or breastfeeding and children under 12 choose fish from this list. For safe amounts check the Health Canada website:

Maple Teriyaki Salmon


  • 4 salmon fillets

  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup pure Canadian Maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 1 -2 minced garlic cloves

  1. Mix marinade ingredients into a bowl; remove 1/2 cup for basting (cover and refrigerate).
  2. Pour remaining ingredients into a large plastic bag. Add salmon, seal bag and turn to coat both sides. Refrigerate for 1 - 3 hours.
  3. Drain and discard marinade.
  4. Broil salmon 4 inches from heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Baste with reserved marinade and broil 10 minutes longers or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting frequently.
Serves: 4

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