Various Fish Recipes That Help You Remain Healthy

Is all fish healthy?

A great question! Most fish is very lean and a source of protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Of course if it’s in a heavy batter, deep-fried and served with rich sauces, it’s another story. Health Canada recommends we include fish on the menu 2 to 3 times each week.

Naturally fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel are particularly healthy as they are rich in good fats. Even shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters provide these beneficial fats, although to a lesser degree, while being fantastic sources of minerals like zinc and iron.

There are endless ways to cook and serve fish and seafood. One trend on the rise big time in the culinary world right now is to prepare fish in a smoker. No longer just for classic barbecued pork, smoking on a cedar plank, rubbed with a spice mix or even infused with tea leaves, cooking fish, other meats and even vegetables in a smoker is the way to impress your guests!

The idea of preparing fish in a smoker has been around for centuries. Before refrigeration, people around the world relied on salting, drying and smoking to preserve fish and other foods for long term, safe storage. Today, smoking is largely done for flavour and texture. But how much smoked fish is okay?

Just like eating too much charred food, an excessive intake of smoked foods has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. When fish is smoked, substances in the protein of the fish can convert into nitrosamines. Excessive exposure to nitrosamines has been linked to cancers of the stomach and esophagus. This isn’t unique to smoked fish, but all smoked foods whether bacon, sausage or other cured meats – again in excessive amounts.

I never want to scare anyone and fortunately, if smoked fish is consumed as part of an overall well-balanced diet, particularly one rich in vegetables and fruit (like we all should eat anyway), and in moderate portions, there is no cause for concern. So absolutely go ahead and enjoy that lox (smoked salmon) on a bagel with a little cream cheese, smoked oysters on the half shell with garlic and lemon or a mixture of smoked fish and shellfish in a tomato seafood chowder. Just stay aware of overall balance. Very cool to know is that some experts suggest that when foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes and berries, are consumed with smoked foods, any potential harm from the nitrosamines is reduced!

Whether buying fish to eat fresh or to smoke, choose fish that doesn’t lose scales or smell “fishy”. When cooking fish, allow 10 minutes per inch thickness. You can assess doneness using a meat thermometer and cooking to 140 degrees F (60° C) or to the point where it’s firm, opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Fish and shellfish are delicious marinated.

So keep adding fish to your family meals at least twice each week. And be sure to watch our upcoming “Fish 101” show for great ideas and inspiration.

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