Get hooked on fish

Eating more fish is a good idea for everyone, given its ever-expanding list of potential perks for health. And for the 50-plus crowd, adding fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids to the menu on a regular basis is even more important.Studies assessing omega-3 fatty acids – found in salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines and albacore tuna – point to a host of benefits including protection against a fatal heart attack and a defence against Alzheimer’s disease. Past studies have not evaluated the effects on older people, but new research dealing specifically with older participants provides proof that consuming fish on a regular basis is a wise idea.In preventing heart disease and stroke, omega-3 fatty acids provide a host of protective benefits, among them a reduction in the levels of artery-clogging triglycerides in the blood; a decrease in the likelihood of forming blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke; help in maintaining healthy blood pressure readings; and protection against death immediately after a heart attack. It’s thought that the unstable heart rhythms or irregular heartbeats following a heart attack are responsible for a greater likelihood othat attack being fatal. And various studies have shown that people who eat fish regularly are less likely to have these deadly unstable heart rhythms.The ability of fish with its omega-3 fatty acids to stabilize heart rhythms was believed to be the protective factor in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a multi-centre investigation being carried out in the United States. The research, published in the February 2003 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that, in subjects all over the age of 65, higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a lower risk of dying after a heart attack. In the battle against dementia, eating fish is showing promising results. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, French researchers looked at fish consumption in more than 1,600 people, aged 68 and over with no signs of dementia, then followed them over seven years. Those who ate fish at least once a week were found to be at lower risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s. The scientists surmised that besides the protection afforded to arteries, omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce inflammation in the brain and play a role in regeneration of nerve cells in the brain.  While the evidence of the health benefits of eating fish is mounting, worldwide supplies of wild varieties are decreasing. Environmental factors combined with overfishing are not allowing for the replenishment of wild fish stock. Aquaculture, the farming of fish, is a fast-growing industry and may provide some solutions, especially in helping to meet the growing demand for fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.Although recent nutritional analysis of farmed fish such as salmon demonstrates that it is on par with its wild relatives as far as its omega-3 fatty acid content, popular thinking is that farmed fish falls short in their omega-3 fatty acid content. Although this was once true, current feeding techniques now yield farmed fish on par with their wild counterparts in terms of the amount of these healthy fats.Barbecue Salmon with Hot Mustard SauceThis recipe is adapted from chef Peter Klein of Chow Bar in New York City. You can substitute apple juice, port wine or any sweet fruity wine for plum wine.4  salmon steaks or fillets,  44 to 6 ounces (100 to 150 g),   rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepperMixed salad greensBarbecue Sauce1/2 cup (125 ml)   liquid honey 3 tbsp (45 ml)    vegetable oil2 tbsp (25 ml)    brown sugar 2 tbsp  (25 ml)   sodium-reduced  soy sauce  2 tbsp (25 ml)    sesame oil1 tbsp  (15 ml)   chopped cilantro1 tbsp  (15 ml)  hot or Dijon mustard 1 tbsp (15 ml)   miso paste1 tbsp  (15 ml)   plum wine1 tbsp (15 ml)   rice vinegar 1 tsp  (5 ml)   minced ginger1 tsp  (5 ml)    molasses2   green onions (green tops only)Hot Mustard Sauce2 tsp (10 ml)   dry mustard4 tsp (20 ml)   water 3/4 tsp (4 ml)  rice vinegar2 tbsp  (25 ml)  vegetable oil1 tsp (5 ml) chopped cilantroSaltBarbecue Sauce:  In blender or food processor, purée all ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for one hour before using. Otherwise, refrigerate.Hot Mustard Sauce: Whisk together dry mustard and half the water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Blend in remaining water and rice vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil. Stir in cilantro and season with salt. Keep covered at room temperature.Preheat grill; brush grill with oil. Grill salmon skin side up if using fillets; turn half-way through cooking time, about 10 minutes for each inch (2.5 cm) of thickness. Alternatively, cook salmon under broiler. Cook to desired doneness. Brush generously with Barbecue Sauce. Serve on a bed of mixed salad greens drizzled with Hot Mustard Sauce.Makes 4 servings.per-serving nutritional information: calories: 320; protein: 25 g; fat: 14 g; saturated fat: 2 g; carbohydrate: 11 g; dietary fibre: less than 1 g; sodium: 180 mg.A recent study in the journal Science found salmon contains trace amounts of  industrial pollutants, including dioxin, PCBs and DDT, with the farmed variety containing significantly more than what was found in the tests of wild salmon.Before you decide to ban fish from your menu, there is a number of considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, the PCB level in the farmed variety was about 50 parts per billion for raw salmon with the skin on, well below the 2,000 parts per billion Health Canada considers to be safe. When the salmon is cooked and the skin removed, the levels fall substantially to almost that of wild salmon.It’s also important to keep in mind that all animal protein foods contain PCBs – a reflection of the state of our environment. Farmed fish, like wild, eat other fish. But in the case of the farmed varieties, as the feed is more concentrated, the amounts of fish eaten are greater, leading to the higher levels of these contaminants.Scientists are investigating various types of feed to provide the omega-3 fatty acids. But in the meantime, when you assess the risk versus benefit of eating farmed salmon, for the 50-plus age group, there’s no question. The protection against stroke, dying from a heart attack or developing dementia decreases significantly when fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids is on the menu.There has also been concern about the presence of mercury in some species of fish. Children, pregnant and nursing women should be cautious but, for post-menopausal women and middle-aged and older men, the advantages of eating fish to prevent cardiovascular disease far surpass the risks.There are a few other points of caution. If you’re taking medication such as a blood thinner, be sure to consult your physician before making any significant changes to your fish-eating frequency because of its effect on blood clotting. That advice applies to those taking high doses of fish oil supplements, which can lead to excessive bleeding.