No Scales, No Fins, No Good
February 3, 2008
Scientific research has moved more and more doctors and nutritionists to recommend adding fish and fish oils to our diet. Studies indicate that eating fish once or twice each week may also help reduce blood cholesterol levels, a leading cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a major factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
Fish is not only a fast, easy meal to prepare, but it's also easy on the digestive system, high in protein, low in sodium and low in calories. Understandably, health-conscious consumers are beginning to include fish as a regular part of their weekly diet and a healthy alternative to red meats.
Beware of Fish without Scales and Fins
Interestingly kosher dietary laws prohibit the eating of fish without both scales and fins. That eliminates a number of delicious sea foods, including shellfish, shrimp, catfish, lobster, mussels, eels, sharks, sturgeons, and swordfish, just to name a few.
Clearly their law-giver knew something that has taken scientists years to discover. Now we know that fish with scales AND fins are equipped with a digestive system that prevents the absorption of poisons and toxins into their flesh from the waters they call home. Flounder, cod, haddock, and salmon are a few examples of fish with scales and fins.
Catfish have fins, but do not have scales. These scavengers are primarily bottom feeders and have digestive systems designed to absorb toxins from the water. Clams, lobster, shrimp, crabs, mussels and squid do not have scales or fins and are believed to be highly toxic. They naturally absorb all the toxins in the water they live in. Believe it or not, lobster and crabs are crustaceans and are a part of the arthropod family, which include caterpillars, cockroaches, and spiders!
Fish with Scales and Fins
Albacore, Bass, Carp, Flounder, Grouper, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Orange Roughy, Perch, Pike, Pollock, Salmon, Sardines, Snapper, Sole, Tilapia, Trout, Tuna, Walleye, Whitefish, and Whiting are just some of the most popular fish with both fins and scales.
Wild Caught vs Farm-Raised (aka Ocean-Raised) Fish?
Unfortunately, farm-raised fish have almost taken over the market. In some areas it's almost impossible to find wild fish and when you do, the price is considerably higher than the farm-raised fish. The debate continues as to the whether or not farm-raised fish are full of toxins, such as mercury and PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls, a "probable human carcinogen" according to the EPA and banned in 1977). However, some things are not in question… farm-raised fish are held in containment cells, which don't allow adequate space for swimming. Like anything living in crowded conditions, they are prone to disease, requiring antibiotics, which of course we consume when we eat them.
Additionally, this environment doesn't allow the fish to eat naturally. They are fed prepared fish food, which affects not only their nutritional value and their coloring, but also their taste. The danger of this prepared fish food was highlighted in the spring of 2007 during the big pet food scare, which was traced to a tainted Chinese ingredient. Some of the contaminated flour was mislabeled as gluten and mixed into fish food in Canada and exported to the USA, where it was fed to farmed-fish!
Of course the total number of calories will depend on how you choose to prepare your fish. While great for the taste buds, frying adds far more calories to fish than baking, broiling, steaming or poaching. Some may feel that fish without butter or tartar sauce is like a day without sunshine, but there are other ways to add great flavor to your fish without these added calories. Basil, thyme, rosemary, curry powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, lemon, lime, and balsamic or plum vinegar will enhance the flavor of the fish without adding all those extra calories.
Quick Fish Recipe
Clean fish fillets by rubbing a little sea salt over them and rinsing with cold water. Marinate fillets of salmon, tilapia, flounder, or your favorite fish (15 min. to 1 hr, but overnight is even better) in dried thyme leaves, Herbes de Provence*, sea salt, pepper (white or black), red pepper flakes or powder (optional), and plum vinegar or lemon juice. Bake or broil 10-25 minutes, depending on type of fish, thickness of fillet and whether baked or broiled.
*Unable to find Herbes de Provence at your favorite grocer? Make your own… it includes winter savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, & lavender flowers. Don't like the "fish oil" taste of some fish? Add a 1-3 whole cloves and some dried thyme to your favorite recipe and enjoy!
Food for Thought
If you'd like to live a healthy, vibrant life, at least consider replacing some of those red meat meals with some delicious wild fish! Reduce or eliminate shellfish and farm-raised fish from your diet, and be sure that your fish has scales and fins. (Having them removed at the market is a plus!)
Hate to scale fish indoors?
Here's a tip… fill sink with cool water; with fish under water scrape fish scaler (or serrated knife) in opposite direction of the scales. The water will prevent the scales from flying all over the kitchen! To scale those hard to hold ends, allow water to flow from faucet directly over the area being scaled.