How to Buy and Cook Fish to Boost Your Health

Fish is generally good for you, and the Health Promotion Board recommends that we eat two or more servings of fish a week (one serving equals 90g cooked fish).

Nutrients from fish
A diet of fatty fish like salmon, Spanish mackerel (tenggiri papan), longtail shad (terubok), tuna and sardine helps provide omega-3 fat, which can help reduce blood clots in the arteries and prevent them from hardening.

Fish is also an excellent source of lean protein that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. In general, a cooked serving of fish provides about 20g protein (about one third of the average recommended daily intake for an adult), less than 160 calories and less than 100mg cholesterol.

Fish is also a good source of all types of vitamin B, as well as vitamins A and D. Fish provides iodine (mainly in saltwater fish), iron and calcium (found in the edible bones of canned sardine and salmon) too.

How to cook fish
The way we cook fish can affect its nutritional quality, such as the fat content of a dish.

For example, in the recipe for pan-fried seabass with spicy plum sauce, you can reduce the fat content by steaming the fish instead of panfrying it (in this case, steaming can save you 9g fat and 81 calories). Steaming does not require the addition of cooking oil, so the fat content of steamed dishes is usually low.

To ensure that cooked fish is good for the heart, you can also use healthy cooking methods such as grilling, baking, steaming, pan-frying and poaching.

You should also minimise the use of salt, sauces and oil. Instead, you can experiment with vegetables, herbs, spices and lemon juice to enhance its flavour.

Eat in moderation
Although fish is good for the heart, we should still eat it in moderation (about 90g to 120g per serving). Eating at least two servings of fish per week will help protect against heart disease and stroke.

But eating large portions of fish can contribute to weight gain, especially if you eat a lot of fatty fish, which are high in calories.

A cooked serving of lean fish like red snapper and seabass usually contains less than 2.5g fat. Compare that with the 5g to 10g fat you get from the same portion of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or tuna.

5 Tips on how to buy fish

Frozen fish fillets should be solidly frozen in undamaged packages.

When selecting fish, look, smell and touch to ensure freshness.

Whole fish should have skin that is bright and shiny, and eyes that protrude and are jet black with transluscent corneas. The gills should be red, the scales tight, and the flesh firm to the touch, springing back when pressed.

Fillets and steaks should look pink and translucent, and not dull red and opague. If there is liquid on the flesh, it should be clear and not milky.

All fresh fish should have a “fresh fish” aroma, and not smell off.

-HealthXChange. The information in this article were adapted from Where is the Fat? Cookbook, published by Dietetics and Nutrition Services from Singapore General Hospital

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