The Healthful Bounty of Fish

Fish is more than "brain" food—it’s good for our bodies from head to toe.

There are no bones about it—fish is one of the leanest sources of protein available for a health conscious consumer. Generally, most fish is lower in saturated fat and total fat than other protein-rich foods. And most of the fat that is present in fish is polyunsaturated (Omega-3), an essential fat that is needed for normal body functions.

Numerous studies have concluded that high dietary consumption of fish is protective against cardiovascular disease. In fact, experts say that even small amounts of fish (2 or more servings per week) may reduce the risks for colorectal and other digestive tract cancers (see sidebar).

When selecting a fish to serve, remember that the leanest choices are fish that is white or light in color such as orange roughy, perch, snapper, catfish and sole. However, don’t rule out salmon or blue fin tuna, customer favorites that have fattier profiles but more heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. (For more buying tips, see sidebar on page 66.)

The most healthful way to prepare fish is to steam, broil, poach, grill or bake it. Fish’s flavor can be punched up with a wide variety of ingredients like fresh herbs, citrus zest, marinades and more.

In general, follow the 10 minute rule for cooking finfish—whole fish, steaks and fillets. For every inch of thickness, cook fish for 10 minutes at a temperature of 425°F to 450°F. The internal temperature should reach 145°F. If one end is thinner than the other, fold it underneath so the thickness is uniform.(Cooking times for frying and microwaving are generally faster. If fish is cooked from a frozen state, double the cooking time, but check halfway through to avoid overcooking.) Cooked fish is opaque and flakes with a fork.

Consider the Brazilian Catfish recipe that follows when you want to offer your customers bold flavor in a healthy fish entrée. The fish is marinated in a zesty coffee and citrus juice-based marinade, then is grilled and served with a spicy fresh tomato, black bean and corn salsa, enhanced with a homemade roasted spice mixture.