Education Can Help Make Fish Part of A Person’s Weekly Menu

Eating fish three times a week can reduce risk for heart disease

DAYTON, Ohio (March 13, 2018) – Fish can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and aid in children’s growth and development, but many people struggle with how to properly get it from the grocer’s display case to their dinner table.  

“When I’m counseling a patient on healthy eating habits, fish is always a part of the conversation,” said Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, a primary care physician with Fairborn Medical Center. “I find, however, that most people are hesitant to add fish to their personal menus because they may not know how to choose the right fish or how to prepare it safely.”

Fish and seafood are major sources of protein, omega-3 fat, and vitamin D, and are low in saturated fat. A study published in JAMA suggests that even one to two servings of fatty fish a week can reduce a person’s risk of dying from heart disease by more than a third. Higher fish intake has also been shown to decrease the risk of dementia. But the Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy, has found Americans do just the opposite. Only one-third of Americans eat seafood once a week while nearly half eat fish occasionally if at all, the policy said.

Dr. Ambalavanan believes the change should come through education. She strives to help her patients understand the basics: What type of fish is best to eat and how often they should add it to their diet. Providing tools like this can go a long way to help a person incorporate fish into their diet. 

“The best thing a person can do is to pay attention to the type of fish they are eating,” said Dr. Ambalavanan, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “There are five categories of fish that are considered the safest and these include salmon, catfish, pollock, shrimp and canned fish such as tuna.”

Eating four to six ounces of these types of fish up to three times a week will help a person get the nutrients they need. Fish such as shark, swordfish, mackerel and tilefish are known to contain higher levels of mercury and should not be eaten as often, she said.

Dr. Ambalavanan suggests using the following steps outlined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to eat fish and stay healthy:

Buy it right – Only buy fish that is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of ice. Fresh fish should not smell sour or ammonia-like and its eyes should be clear and bulge a bit. A fish’s flesh should spring back when pressed and should not have discoloration, darkening or drying around the edges.

Store it properly – Put seafood on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer right after buying it. Seafood that will be used within two days of purchase may be stored in the refrigerator. Seafood that will be consumed two days or more after purchase should be tightly wrapped in plastic, foil or moisture-proof paper and stored in the freezer.

Prepare it appropriately – Thaw frozen seafood gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight or seal it in a bag and immerse it in cold water if needed earlier. Whether you choose to bake or grill, seafood should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish’s flesh should look opaque and separate easily with a fork.

Serve it to enjoy – Never leave seafood out of the refrigerator for more than two hours or one hour when temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a cooler to take seafood to picnics and store that in the shade. At a gathering, work hard to keep hot seafood hot and cold seafood cold. Consider serving cold seafood on smaller trays so that portions can be kept in the refrigerator until needed.

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