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Fish and seafood have been important in human nutrition since prehistoric times. Fish farming is also an age-old practice. The ancient Assyrians had fish ponds where they bred up to 50 different species of fish, and the Romans also farmed fish in ponds. For thousands of years, the Chinese have farmed fish as well, using their rice fields during the periods when the fields were underwater.
Throughout history, fish and shellfish have been a source of economic power. The Vikings traded large amounts of stockfish and salted, dried cod, and Britain’s empire was based largely on its control of the oceans as a result of its fishing industry. At one time, the English parliament even forbade the nation's citizens to eat meat three days a week: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. This decree increased the demand for fish and shellfish and, as a result, the demand for fisherman. Many of these fishermen became skilled seamen and a resource for the English Navy.
During recent decades, per capita fish consumption has expanded all over the world. Several factors determine the consumption of fish and shellfish, the main ones being a country's own supply of these products, the country’s economy, and tradition. One of the major reasons fish and shellfish consumption is increasing in the United States is the desire of many Americans to eat more healthfully.
In 2004, total worldwide seafood production (excluding aquatic plants) was estimated to be nearly 150 million tons of which 58 million tons came from aqua culture. China was the lead in seafood producing countries with 16.5 million tons, followed by Peru with 8 million tons, the United States with 6 million tons, Japan with 5 million tons, and Indonesia with 5 million tons.
Fish and shellfish are nutrient-dense and an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, but it is their content of omega-3 fatty acids that receives the most attention. While virtually all fish and shellfish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, some contain much more than others.
The following list provides a general grouping of fish and shellfish based on their omega-3 fatty acid content.
Higher-level (more then 1.0 gram per 3 oz cooked serving)
The beneficial effects of fish and shellfish consumption on human health have been well documented. It is their content of omega-3 fatty acids that is primarily responsible for many of their unique health benefits. Based upon more than 2,000 scientific studies, at least 60 different health conditions are either prevented or treatable with a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The best known condition prevented and treated with omega-3 fatty acids is heart disease.
The idea that eating fish may reduce the risk of heart disease began in the 1970s, when it was noted that among the Eskimos in the Arctic Greenland, where high consumption of marine animals was the normal diet, heart disease was very low. Subsequent studies in similar cultures where fish and seafood consumption is high showed the same sort of protection. For example, the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa, who eat primarily fish, were also observed to have a very low incidence of mortality from heart disease.
In order to better assess the protective effects of fish consumption against heart disease, researchers conducted large studies in which they tracked dietary intake of fish and other seafood over a long period of time. As the results of these studies became available in the mid-1980s and 1990s, they provided even stronger evidence that higher levels of fish consumption were associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart disease. It is now estimated the individuals whose diet include a larger intake of fish, particularly those high in omega-3 fatty acids, reduce the risk of heart disease by roughly 47% compared to those individuals who do not eat fish.
In addition to heart disease, scientists now know that fish consumption can lower the risk of many cancers - particularly breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer, as well as many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Available year round, fish is usually sold already cut into steaks or fillets, both fresh and frozen, with the skin left on to prevent the meat from falling apart during cooking. Fresh fish should be displayed on metal trays or sheets of paper or plastic, and placed on top of clean ice. The flesh should appear freshly cut and should not be sitting in a pool of liquid. The skin should be smooth, moist, and firm, not flaky, and should not feel too slippery or slimy. If the fish is small enough to have been left whole, its eyes should be bright and clear, not cloudy or sunken, and it should be buried in the ice since it’s skin will protect the flesh from direct contact with the ice. When buying a whole fish, be sure to allow twice as much weight per serving as you would for steaks or fillets.
Rely on your sense of smell to tell you if the fish is truly fresh. Fresh fish will smell like salt water and should not have a sour ammonia-like fishy smell. Once the fishmonger has wrapped and given you the fish you have chosen, give it a sniff test. If you smell any off-odor return it.
Some fish are flash frozen on the boat right after they are caught, then later thawed and sold. Such fish is often of excellent quality, even superior to fresh fish, but should be cooked as soon as possible and not refrozen. If buying frozen fish, avoid fish with whitened, cotton-like patches (a sign of freezer burn) or any package with lots of ice crystals or water stains.
When purchasing any fresh fish, plan your shopping trip so that the fish is your last purchase and if it all possible go directly home so it can be quickly refrigerated until cooked. When you get home, rinse and re-wrap the fish, then place it on paper towels in a clean plastic bag or tightly closed container and set it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Even better, place the rewrapped fish in a pan of ice and set this on the bottom shelf (the coldest one in the refrigerator.) If keeping the fish until the next day, check once or twice to see that the ice is not melted and replenish it if needed. Kept in this fashion, fresh fish can be stored for one or two days. Once cooked, fish should be eaten in one or two days.
If you cannot eat fresh fish within a couple of days, it’s best to freeze it. Once frozen and thawed, fish should not be refrozen. Cut the fish if necessary, into pieces no larger than two pounds. Rinse, pat dry, and wrap tightly in heavy duty freezer paper or plastic wrap. Wrap again in foil, label with the date and freeze. If the fish is already frozen and not thawed, just store it in its original wrapping. Stored in the coldest part of the freezer, fish will keep for up to six months.
Fish lends itself to baking, broiling, poaching, steaming, or grilling. Baking is a particularly easy way to prepare fish. On the road this can be done in an air fryer. To bake fish, preheat your oven to 425°F. Or set your air fryer for fish. Lightly oil a shallow baking dish and place the fish on it, skin side down. It is not necessary to add a fat or liquid when baking fish. The fish will remain naturally moist as long as it is not overcooked. Alternatively, poaching fish requires liquid, such as stock or a mixture of wine, vinegar, coconut aminos, or other flavored liquids with stock or water. Add just enough cooking liquid to cover the piece of fish and bake as above.
The variety of flavor is as diverse as the different types of fish and shellfish, from the buttery, mild flavor of whitefish, such as cod, to the fall, rich, complex flavor of most shellfish.
You don't need a tackle box to get high-quality seafood into your diet. The Let's Truck store has a wide variety of the world's finest wild seafood and organic fare, harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms.
Dungeness crabs are native to the Pacific coast and can be found all the way from Alaska to Mexico. This crab is named for the former small town of Dungeness on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, which was the first city to begin commercially harvesting the delicacy, though the Dungeness crab is also a mainstay in the San Francisco area, where it is a featured attraction at the world-famous fisherman‘s wharf. This large crab can range from 1 to 4 pounds. It’s pink flesh is succulent and sweet. Only males are harvested: female crabs may not be taken as a way to avoid overharvesting.
Shrimp are second only to canned tuna as the most popular seafood in the United States. The firm, succulent flesh of raw shrimp sports a variable color palette that can be pink, gray, brownish, or yellow, depending on the variety. Upon cooking, the flesh of these crustaceans typically becomes a pink and cream color. At 3 to 4 inches in length and a reddish pink in color, the deep water shrimp, also referred to as the pink shrimp, is the most commonly available type in the United States.
Shrimp is an excellent source of protein selenium and vitamin B 12. In addition, shrimp is a very good source of iron and phosphorus.
Tuna has a steak-like firmness and density. It boosts the meatiest flavor and texture of any fish. Tuna steaks are often found to have a central section of dark brown flesh that has a stronger, more intense flavor. This color indicates the musculature these powerful fish utilize for long distance swimming.
Tuna are found in the warm water areas of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Tuna has become one of the most popular saltwater catches in the world thanks in part to the commercial success of canned tuna.
Although canned tuna can make a tasteful and nutritious meal, many fish lovers will tell you that fresh tuna is tastier and healthier as it contains more omega-3 fatty acids than its canned counterpart. Tuna is an excellent source of protein, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B 12. In addition, tuna is also s very good source of niacin and phosphorus.
Mackerel is full of omega-3 fatty acids and it contains a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals. This oily fish is one of the healthiest seafood options.
Mackerel has an impressive nutrient profile and it is an exceptional source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, vitamin B 12, and selenium. Mackerel appears to support a healthy mental state and evidence shows the fish can boost cognitive function and contains numerous nutrients associated with better cardiovascular health.
Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Sardines are named after Sardinia, the Italian island where large schools of these fish were once found. While sardines are delightful fresh, they are most commonly found canned, since they are so perishable. With growing concerns over the health of the seas, people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, and therefore do not concentrate heavy metals, such as mercury, and other contaminants as do some other fish.
Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B 12 and selenium. They are a very good source of phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and vitamin D. Additionally they are a good source of calcium, niacin, copper, vitamin B2, and choline.
There are many kinds of mussels both freshwater and saltwater, but the variety that is most likely to land on your plate is the blue mussel. Also known as edible mussels, these creatures live in a blue-black bivalve shell. The mussel itself is tan colored and full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Mussels mostly stay in one place eating plankton that they filter from the water. Farm-raised muscles grow in ropes that hang in the ocean so they are cleaner because they do not sit on the ocean floor.
Mussels are nutritionally-rich, they contain many vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. Mussels have an impressive nutritional profile, their unique mixture of nutrients means that they have several health benefits including high-quality protein, anemia prevention, heart health, and weight loss.
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