Good For The Soul, And The Body? Yep!

smallest-fish“Whoever catches the smallest fish has to cook all of them, OK?” Brad called across the pond to Rhonda.

“Sure,” Rhonda called back. “I guess I’ll be doing the cooking tonight,” she whispered to her dog, Shadow, as she struggled to get her worm on the hook. “I never should have agreed to this.”

Shadow lazily opened one eye and peered up at her.

“I know,” Rhonda said quietly, “I only did it to spend the day with the cutest boy in this whole campground. Well, I can’t look like I don’t know what I’m doing. He might never ask me to go fishing again.”

Rhonda watched as Brad expertly cast his line into the water and waited for the fish to bite. Then it was her turn. With one hand she clumsily threw the line into the water and almost let go of the rod. Once she saw the bobber at the surface, she smiled sheepishly and gave Brad a thumbs-up.

An hour later Rhonda felt a tug on her line and started to reel it in. She struggled to lift the rod as it bent close to the water. Afraid it would break, she let go of the rod and grabbed the line, pulling as hard as she could to free a 5-inch perch from the water. She grinned as she held the wiggling fish near her face. “I got one!” she excitedly called across the pond while pulling the hook from its mouth.

The fish flapped its tail and wriggled out of Rhonda’s grasp, making a big splash as it fell back into the water. “Oh no you don’t,” she yelled. She scrambled after it until she lost her footing and fell headfirst into the pond.

Dripping wet, Rhonda waded to shore and came face-to-face with Brad.

“Lose something?” he asked, laughing.

“It’s not funny,” she pouted.

“At least you caught a fish,” he said, trying to hide his amusement. He pulled from behind his back a big, black boot with his hook still entwined in the laces. They both laughed.

“It’s a good thing my dad caught some perch this morning,” Brad said. “Come on. Let’s go back to the campground, and I’ll grill it while you change your clothes. At least the day won’t be a total waste.”

Succulent Seafood

Enjoying fresh perch grilled over an open campfire is a satisfying end to anyone’s day. But, grilling fish isn’t the only way to enjoy its delicate flavor. Broiling scallops or grouper to a golden brown is fast and simple. Perfectly sauteed orange roughy or red snapper is lightly brown on the outside while still moist and tender on the inside. Poached salmon has a mild, delicate flavor that is even better when served with a tasty sauce. Baked cod, catfish, or mahi mahi can be coated in cornmeal and spices for an extra crunch. With a multitude of cooking techniques, eating fish never has to be boring.

Fish is a healthy food, too. Unless it’s deep-fried and covered with tartar sauce, it is low in calories and saturated fat and high in vitamins, minerals, and protein. In fact, fish has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and some kinds of cancer.

Good Fats

About 30 years ago, researchers discovered that Greenland Eskimos had very little heart disease, even though they ate a very high-fat diet. Further studies showed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish they ate actually protected their hearts. These polyunsaturated fats lower the risk of heart attack stroke by making blood cells less sticky and less likely to form blood clots. They also lower blood triglyceride levels, another heart disease risk factor. Because humans aren’t able to make their own omega-3 fatty acids, you must consume these fatty acids in your diet–and that means eating some seafood.

Fatty fish such as salmon and trout are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other fish, such as anchovies, oysters, tuna, sardines, whitefish, and herring, are also good choices. Crab, clams, halibut, perch, snapper, and cod are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids if you eat these fish frequently. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish each week to lower the risk of heart disease.

Some doctors believe omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce depression and other psychiatric disorders. Dr. Andrew Stoll, author of the book The Omega-3 Connection, explains that the brain is about 60 percent fat and it needs omega-3s to function properly.

Safety Issues

While most fish is perfectly safe to eat, there are some cautions to consider. In January 2001, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that children, pregnant or nursing women, and women who may become pregnant not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel, or tilefish due to the high levels of mercury found in them. Other people should limit their intake of these fish to no more than 12 ounces per week to reduce their exposure to mercury.

Mercury is found naturally in the atmosphere, but more than 80 percent of the mercury that ends up in fish comes from burning coal and other environmental toxins. If a person consumes enough mercury, he or she may get mercury poisoning and experience symptoms ranging from numbness or tingling sensations around the lips, fingers, and toes to difficulty walking, speaking, seeing, and hearing. Severe cases may end in coma and death.

Eating raw or undercooked seafood such as clams, oysters, and mussels also can be unsafe. When these foods come from contaminated water, they may contain hepatitis A bacteria. With this disease you could have flu-like symptoms that may not end for up to six months. If you do eat raw fish, make sure it comes from a safe source.

Fish and other seafood can be a delicious entree whether you catch it yourself or not. Add plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and you’ll have a healthy meal. By finding some new and interesting recipes, you may even become a fish freak.

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