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Why Eat More Fish?

We have all seen toys or cartoons where a little fish eats a smaller one, a bigger one eats it, etc., until maybe a dozen fish are one inside the other, leaving one big, fat, very satisfied fishie. Keep that image in mind for a moment.

When I was small, I hated fish. I would sit and poke at it, whine, hide it or slip it to the cat until I was sent to my room. It was the only class of food I had a problem with, and no wonder! My mother usually steamed or poached it with little or no herbs, spices, seasonings, butter, sauce, breading or other redeeming qualities. A whole small fish or fillet was then placed in front of me with stern warnings to check for bones and graphic tales of the terrible consequences if I swallowed one. Any little scratchy bit that went down my throat caused great mental distress. My great-aunt Amelia Hine, seeing my stricken look, would nod knowingly and advise "Eat some bread and butter; maybe that will help it go through". Terrible thing to do to a child!

Then in my mid-teens, I discovered a lunch counter at a downtown drugstore in Sarasota, Florida that offered snapper fingers, tartar sauce, salad and a big glass of iced tea for a pittance-- less that the price of a club sandwich. No wimpy fish sticks these; hearty chunks of fresh snapper, well seasoned, lightly breaded and quickly deep fried, served with a creamy tartar sauce redolent with onion and garlic. No one there in my little corner lunch booth watching while I pulled the pieces apart with my hands to avoid the dreaded bones! Fish became a large part of my lunch diet for months.

Tilapia are being introduced to many third world countries as a way to farm fish and boost the protein and nutrition in the local diet. On the Discovery channel, I saw a mother feeding her baby some of this fish. Cuddling the child on her lap, she held a dish with a boiled fish in her hand. She picked off small pieces of the flesh with her fingers, mushed it up both to check for bones and "chew" it a little. Then she tucked it into the baby's mouth. No high chairs there! A loving way to teach a tot to eat fish, and a lot healthier than fish sticks! We can learn a lot from more "primitive" peoples, can't we?

Commercial fish sticks certainly changed the way we eat fish. It's so easy to pop some in the oven and serve boneless fast food under the guise of healthy. Problem is, it's not necessarily healthy and it's not always boneless. It's also a fairly expensive way to get your fish. Pick the breading off a thawed raw fish stick some time and weigh it on a postal or kitchen scale. See how much you're paying for crumbs, preservatives, salt and mystery grease! Not all fish sticks are a bad buy, of course, mostly just the cheapest, smallest ones, and most breaded shrimp. But there's better ways to cook and eat seafood. Offer a commercially frozen, breaded shrimp to a good Louisiana cook or connoisseur of Cajun food and watch him or her turn pale!

What about the health benefits? According to many sources, they are considerable. According to a report, researchers at the University of Western Australia persuaded patients with high blood pressure, overweight, heart and cholesterol problems and at risk for diabetes to include a daily serving of fish in a weight-loss diet. Despite skepticism, all the risk factors improved on the daily fish diet:

"Surprisingly, the study finds including a daily fish meal in a weight-loss diet actually lowered cholesterol levels, had a beneficial effect on glucose metabolism and promoted weight loss."

These same risks are lessened for Asians and others who eat a diet high in fish. While fish-oil pills have reputed benefits, eating whole fish is preferable from several standpoints. Don't include commercial fish sticks in your selection; go for fillets, fish steaks, dried reconstituted cod, canned and fresh salmon, canned mackerel and tuna, sardines, halibut, herring and even anchovies.  

Small to medium size fish are often far healthier choices than huge ones. Remember the reference to big fish eating smaller fish? An incredible amount of sewage, industrial waste and farming chemicals are being drained into the oceans every day all over the world. In addition, some algae and other organisms produce natural toxins. Small fish take in these toxins and poisons, building them up in their bodies. Bigger fish that eat these small ones take in and retain these toxins, increasing the concentration with each fish they eat. This means that some large fish can have a totally unacceptable amount of toxins, chemicals and poisons in their bodies. The same is happening with delta, bay, marsh or river fish to an alarming degree in all industrialized countries.

Many fish are becoming scarce due to this pollution and to over-fishing, at the same time as formidable price increases take place. See the Ten Commandments for Eating Fish for more guidelines and ideas.

Here's a simply and fast way to store and prepare fish for easy serving: Quick & Healthy Fish Sticks. Tartar sauce is a tasty way to make fish more palatable too. Find more ideas at Healthy Seafood Recipes.                      

See All About Fish & Seafood.

The Sneaky Kitchen
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