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Fishing right

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Something fishy Use the right technique to cook fish
Something fishy Use the right technique to cook fish

The benefits of eating fish are aplenty

Fish is the most healthful that food can get without being a plant. It is rich in protein, polyunsaturated fatty acid and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA). Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart disease. Infants of mothers who consume omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy tend to have good brain and vision development.

Just six to 12 ounces of fatty fish per week are enough to obtain these health benefits. However, quality is important, and there are health concerns about contaminants in seafood. Metals like methyl mercury, and persistent organic pollutants like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) accumulate in seafood and can cause illness with chronic exposure. Eating raw shellfish contaminated with vibrio and noroviruses can be harmful.

Seafood varies in contaminant levels depending on geography, species, size, harvest location and age. The problem with contaminants such as mercury is they cannot be excreted, and fish that eat other fish accumulate the toxins found in the prey. Sharks consume thousands of smaller fish during a lifetime and have among the highest level of toxins. People who live on the coast eat the most fish per week and have the highest health risk.

Balancing the health benefits and risks of eating seafood can be tricky. The best advice on this matter is rooted in common sense. Avoid eating large fish at the top of the seafood chain like shark, swordfish and king mackerel. These large fish are endangered and we have another reason to leave them alone. Vary the source and species of fish to spread out the risk of contamination. Avoid raw fish and other seafood.

There are many unknowns about the type and levels of contaminants in the Indian Ocean, and making informed dietary choices about catch from the ocean is not easy. Pregnant and lactating women might be better off avoiding seafood altogether when in doubt. Omega-3 fatty acids are available in pill form for those who do not eat fish.

Frying eliminates most of the health benefits associated with eating fish.

RAJIV. M

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