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The Saltwater Solution

Por Nydia Rivera Alcaide* -

When planning the ultimate in healthy meals, get out your rod and reel and head to the coast. If you don’t consider yourself an angler, head for the seafood section of your local grocery store.

Fish and seafood have become increasingly common in the family diet perhaps because of their freshness, flavor, nutritional value, availability and simple preparation. Many hail fish and seafood dishes as the most nutritious fast food on the planet. Not only can you cook them fast, but they also have excellent nutritional value. Seafood fans, nutritionists and health experts worldwide continuously discover countless seafood benefits.
Among other benefits, fish and seafood offer quality protein and an excellent supply of vitamins and minerals, most notably iodine and vitamin B12, as well as the fatty acids that play a role in cell and tissue development and function.

An ocean full of virtues

"Fish has many attributes," says Dr. Eleazar Lara-Pantin, a nutrionist at MyDiet™. "Fish provide an excellent source of the high-quality proteins found in other food from animal sources. But fish fat behaves differently, especially in the way that it doesn’t increase the risk of diseases associated with eating other animal fats."

In fact, some kinds of fish can also boast high omega-3 fatty acid levels. Mainly found in fish and seafood, these fatty acids help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood flow and may even lower the risk of thrombosis. They play an important role in the development of the brain, the nervous system and sight in unborn children. Lara-Pantin points out that various studies show that the fat contained in fish improves the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides rather than increases them. "Fish fat helps increase the so-called good cholesterol in the blood," Lara-Pantin explains. "This kind of cholesterol does not get deposited in the arteries, thus preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Moreover, it helps reduce the fat already deposited in the artery walls. Both of these actions lower the risk of heart disease," explains Lara-Pantin.

A good catch

Just as fish and seafood vary considerably in terms of their flavor, smell and texture, they also vary in terms of their nutrient, vitamin, protein and fat content.

Their fat content distinguishes them most from one another. After studying various specialized publications on the subject, the nutrition experts at MyDiet™ found that, although some fish contain more fat than others, the amount can vary according to the season, the temperature of the waters, their food and even the reproduction period of each species. Some fish have lower fat levels after laying eggs. The least fat or most lean fish, such as hake and trout, have less than 5% fat. And the flat fish, such as flatfish and turbot, have between 1 and 2% fat. The most notable fat-rich fish (with fat comprising over 10% of their body weight) are tuna, salmon and sardines. Most of these fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and vitamins A, B12, and D.

The environment in which they live also affects the characteristics of the fish we eat. Although most fish eaten by humans come from the ocean, we also eat freshwater fish that live in rivers, lakes and streams. But, saltwater fish have a richer iodine and chlorine content, while freshwater fish have a richer potassium, magnesium and phosphor content. Hake, swordfish, cod, grouper, dorado and sardines comprise some of the ocean fish. The most popular freshwater catches include trout and eel. "People should learn how to take advantage of the nutritional components of fish and seafood" says the MyDiet™ nutritionist Ana María González. "We have to include them more in our diet."
"Many studies show that we should eat fish at least twice a week. An adult should eat 4 to 6 ounces per serving of fish (calculated after the removal of the skin, bones and innards). We also should include legumes, fruit, vegetables, cereals and whole wheat items such as crackers and breads in our meal to accompany the fish and the seafood," she adds.

*from the MyDiet™ Editorial Team


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