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Take the Plunge: How to Find Fresh Fish
The right fish, prepared the right way, is a great addition to a healthy diet. But maybe you don't know how to choose or cook fresh fish – or perhaps you're afraid to try. Here are some tips.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Fresh fish is good for your heart and a lean, nutritious alternative to meat. Perhaps you order it in restaurants from time to time, but you’re still hesitant to cook fish because you've tried it in the past and it didn't turn out right.
If you're thinking about taking the plunge and cooking more fresh fish, here’s what you need to know before you set out for the fish market.
Buying Fresh Fish at the Market
Eating fresh fish is the key to getting the most nutrients, as well as avoiding a “fishy” smell after cooking (a sign that the fish wasn’t fresh). Here are some things to look for when buying fish:
- The scent should be very light and fresh — it shouldn't smell fishy or bad in any way — a sign that the fish has been sitting out too long.
- The flesh should look firm, bright, and clear, and shouldn’t be pulling away from the bones.
- The skin should be shiny with a bright (not faded or dull) color.
- Gills should be clean, clear, and red in color.
- On a whole fish, the eyes should be clear and bulging; sunken, discolored eyes are a sign of fish that isn't fresh.
Choose Healthy Fish
Fish is a lean protein, low in saturated fat. Many fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential nutrients that boost heart health and help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also lower blood pressure, reduce arthritis risk, and help maintain good cognitive function and brain health.
To boost your omega-3 fatty acid intake, opt for fish that have the highest levels:
- Albacore tuna
- Sea bass
Swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish are good sources of omega-3, but they also contain high levels of mercury, and shouldn’t be eaten by women who are pregnant or nursing or by children. For other people, eating one of these types of fish once a week may be safe.
Lose That Fishy Taste
Many people don't eat fish because they're fearful that it will have a strong, fishy taste and odor. But if you buy truly fresh fish, that offensive fishy smell will be non-existent. You can also buy varieties of fish that have a lighter flavor: Halibut, tilapia, mahi mahi, sea bass, shrimp, and grouper all tend to be mild. You may need to try a few types of fish and see what suits your palate. You can also ask the fishmonger at your local market what she recommends for the freshest, lightest-tasting fish.
How you prepare your fish also has a big impact on the flavor. Try delicate marinades or just a spritz of fresh lemon and lime and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. You can opt for a salmon or tuna burger, or buy each as a steak — marinate it, grill it, and serve it just like you would its meat counterpart. Fish is delicious, light, and healthy, and it offers a great break from your everyday beef and chicken.
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