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Steaming, Grilling, Deep-Frying Or Microwaving? What Is The Healthiest Way To Cook Fish?

Fish is one of the healthiest, high-protein foods known for its immense health benefits. It possesses a considerable amount of omega 3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats that the body doesn't produce on its own. The most common types of omega 3 fats are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are abundantly found in cold water fishes [1].

Fishes are divided into two categories: fatty and lean fish; both contain different amounts of nutrients. Although, fatty fish has a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids compared to lean fish which contributes to most of the health benefits in fatty fish, lean fish has its own share of health benefits too [2], [3], [4], [5].

Due to its several health benefits, The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, particularly fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, herring and lake trout. To reap most of the fish's health benefits, you need to cook them in a way that retains most of its nutrients.

Here are some healthy ways to cook your fish.


1. Steaming

Steaming fish has two benefits: it doesn't cause dryness of the flesh and it doesn't require any added fats and oils to cook it. Steaming is a cooking method that involves using water during the cooking process. It is often done in an appliance or steam basket that uses hot, boiling water to cook the fish. It is cooked at a slightly lower temperature and the lack of fats and oils help to preserve the beneficial nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids in the fish [6].

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2. Poaching

Poaching is another cooking method to cook fish. It is done by cooking the fish in a simmering liquid such as water, stock, milk or wine. This method of cooking fish is healthy as no oil or fat is used and it's cooked at lower temperatures, which helps retain the omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients in the fish.

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3. Grilling

Grilling is another direct-heat cooking method that involves applying dry heat at high temperatures from the bottom to cook the fish. This cooking method doesn't use any fat and it cooks fish fast without making it too dry.

Most people use this cooking method to cook fish, but studies have shown that grilling can lead to the formation of harmful compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds are formed when the fish's muscle tissues are exposed to very high temperatures when cooked over an open flame [7], [8].

To lower your exposure to these compounds, avoid cooking fish over an open flame.


4. Deep-frying

Deep-frying is a cooking method that involves cooking fish in large amounts of fat. During the cooking process, some of the fat is absorbed by the fish, which increases the calories and changes the fat content of the fish. Also most of the EPA and DHA are lost while frying fish compared to other cooking methods [9].
Another study pointed out that frying tuna resulted in loss of omega 3 fatty acids [10]. However, this can vary depending on which type of fish you cook.


5. Broiling

Broiling is a cooking method that involves cooking the fish at high temperatures by using dry heat from the above. This dry cooking method doesn't require any fats and is usually cooked in the oven. A study showed that broiling fish was linked to improving proper blood flow through the cardiovascular system [11].

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6. Baking

Baking is a common and simple method of cooking fish. It involves cooking fish in dry heat in an oven. Studies have shown that less amounts of omega 3 fatty acids are lost while baking fish [12]. Another study also showed that while baking vitamin D is preserved in the fish [13].


7. Microwaving

It is a fast cooking method that involves cooking at low temperatures. Studies have shown that microwaving fish can aid in retaining the healthy omega 3 fatty acids in the fish [14].


8. Pan-frying

Pan-frying is a high-temperature cooking method that involves using less amounts of fat to cook the fish. Pan-frying can be considered a healthier cooking method depending on the types of cooking oil you use to cook the fish [15].


9. Sous vide

Sous vide is a French term which means under vacuum. It is a low-temperature cooking method which involves placing the fish inside a sealed plastic pouch or glass jar and cooked to a precise temperature in a water bath. This cooking method takes a long time to cook, which makes it a healthier way to cook fish because all the nutrients are preserved. Studies have shown that sous vide can improve shelf-life, enhance taste and retain most of the nutrients [16].

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Which Cooking Method Should You Opt For While Cooking Fish?

Steaming, poaching, baking, microwaving and sous vide are considered the healthiest cooking methods compared to deep-frying and grilling fish. Also, keep in mind that the cooking method, types of fish, cooking oil and the duration of cooking time can affect the nutrition in the fish.

Common FAQs

Q. What is the best fish to eat if you don't like fish?

A. You can try catfish and tilapia as they have a mild flavour.

Q. What foods go good with fish?

A. Steamed veggies, roasted or mashed potatoes, pasta and salad are some of the best side dishes that can go good with fish.

Q. Is it safe to eat fish everyday?

A. Yes, for most individuals it is safe to eat fish everyday.

Story first published: Monday, September 7, 2020, 18:30 [IST]
Read more about: healthy ways cooking fish
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