Get the Dish on Fish Nutrition Advice

Written by Lauren Long

All eyes are on the health benefits of fish. If you plan to eat more, take care in how you cook it.

If you haven't already, start fishing for some complements to your healthful diet.

Get More Fish in Your Diet:
Instead of meat, toss fish or shellfish in casseroles, salads, soups, pasta dishes and stir-fries.
Don't forget lunch. A tuna salad or broiled fish sandwich gives you those omega 3s.
If you're not crazy about fish, you may have been served one too many overcooked filets. Fish and seafood must be cooked at high temperatures for short periods of time.
When baking fish, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and cook 10 minutes for each inch of thickness-or until the flesh begins to flake in the middle.  
Regular consumption of omega-3s, the essential fatty acid found in fish oil, has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve psoriasis and arthritis, and may prevent depression and cancer.

Before you belly up to fish fry, make certain the seafood you eat is as clean and uncontaminated as possible. Certain freshwater and saltwater fish contain mercury, dioxin, DDT and PCBs.

Shrimp was the most consumed seafood in 2003, according to the National Fisheries Institute. Yet, eating raw oysters and other shellfish can be hazardous to your health.

"You can pick up really nasty diseases like hepatitis and viruses, because some of these oysters are being cultivated in contaminated waters or can become contaminated in the process. It only takes one oyster hauler who does not take proper care of hygiene," says Joy Nettleton, a Chicago nutritionist with a specialty in seafood.

The oyster industry has introduced requirements to reduce harmful bacteria, according to the institute. Still, if you are unsure about a fish or shellfish product, order your selection thoroughly cooked.

Even with cooked fish, you can take steps to ensure you're eating the cleanest product possible:

- Select small, young fish that are less contaminated than older ones; contaminants accumulate in the fish over its lifetime.

- PCBs and dioxin accumulate in the fat of such fish as catfish, carp and lake trout. Cut away the fatty areas and remove the skin. Don't eat the skin, excess fat, or fish organs. When toxins are present, they tend to accumulate in these areas.

- Use cooking methods that drain the fat, such as grilling, poaching, broiling or baking. Don't use the drippings to flavor meals. Avoid fried fish, because frying concentrates the pollutants in the fat. 

- Don't eat grouper, marlin or orange roughy more than twice a week because of mercury in these fish, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

- The FDA suggests that pregnant and nursing women, women of childbearing age, and children, not eat swordfish or shark more than once a month because of high mercury levels. Mercury is found throughout the fish and cannot be reduced or removed by cleaning or cooking.

- Eat a variety of fish to avoid repeated exposure to the same toxins.

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