Most people consider fish snacks as healthy food. The main reason is that these limbless cold-blooded vertebrate creatures with gills and fins and living wholly in water is high in omega 3 fatty acids, especially the saltwater species. These fatty acids are thought to be heart-protective.
Fish snacks are primarily a protein food with a considerable amount of fats and cholesterol without carbohydrates and fiber. Many people consider fish as healthier than red meat such as beef and pork or white meat such as chicken and turkey. They think it has less fat and cholesterol than those “less healthy” meats. In reality, the amount of fat and cholesterol in all of these animal flesh foods are more or less the same.
Note Worthy Issues Species such as salmon and herring, eel and carp are contaminated with heavy metals, for example, mercury. Other contaminants are lead, chlorine, bromine, dioxins and PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl). The amount of mercury may not be high enough to harm adults at an average consumption level, but it is sufficient to affect the nervous system of unborn babies and young children.
The risk is so serious that the US FDA has made recommendations for pregnant women and young children to not consume shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. This vulnerable group is also advised to eat up to 12 ounces a week of the varieties with lower levels of mercury such as canned light tuna, salmon, and pollock. When these “low mercury” varieties are given to young children, they should be in smaller portions.
Some biotoxins (defensive substances against predators) in certain species can be deadly to humans, such as the puffer fugu used for sushi; while others will cause diarrhea and dizziness.In general, freshwater species or the varieties that spend part of their lives in fresh water are more prone to parasitic infection. It was found that all wild salmon have roundworm larvae whereas farm raised salmon to don’t.
Parasites are not a health risk for cooked dishes. However, they are for raw or lightly preserved ones such as sashimi, sushi, ceviche, and gravlax. In order to kill the parasites in raw fish, they should be frozen to an internal temperature of -20°C (-4°F) for a minimum of 7 days. Please note that home freezers may not be cold enough to perform this important job.
Fish snacks can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be uncooked/raw, cured by marinating, pickled, smoked, baked, fried, grilled, poached, or steamed. Since fish snacks are high fat/cholesterol protein food with considerable levels of health risks, whether you consider the research data solid or controversial, if optimal health is what you desire for yourself and your family, a general rule of thumb is, for both regular meals and snacks, more so when used as a snack:
- Limit it’s weekly intake. Make it a special treat reserved for a special day of the week! And also for special occasions of the year!
- Limit the portion size for each intake. Make it dainty and precious!
- Further, limit the portion size when fed to young children. Educate their taste buds to enjoy a larger variety of healthy natural foods.
- Avoid eating it exclusively by itself. Add in plenty of vegetables that are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that are protective of health. Garlic and onion are an excellent choice of condiment which can help reduce cholesterol.
- Accompany it with nuts and seeds that are also high-fat protein foods. This way, you won’t have to worry about not having enough proteins for your children and the fats will be healthier too. Since nuts and seeds are quite filling, they help make the small portion size satisfying.
- Steam, bake or grill it if a healthier preparation is desired.
So what are you waiting for? The next time you plan o nibble on a small amount of food between meals try the flesh of fish as food.