Fish and shellfish
I know I should eat more fish because it’s healthy – does scampi count as a healthy choice?Scampi can be a healthy choice. It’s a good source (and so are other shellfish) of nutrients such as calcium, iodine, selenium, and protein so you can easily include it as part of a healthy diet.
Scampi is actually a small lobster, sometimes known as ‘langoustine’ or ‘Norway lobster’.
The dish most of us know as scampi are langoustine tails, which are either baked in breadcrumbs or deep-fried in batter. This can make scampi quite high in fat and salt, a 150g portion of scampi baked in breadcrumbs gives you about 20.4g of fat and about 2.5g of salt (over a third of your maximum recommended salt intake of 6g a day), so it’s best to have scampi only occasionally.
Amounts of fat and salt can vary quite a lot depending on the recipe or brand so when you’re eating at home, if you want to choose the healthier option it’s important to check labels so you can compare similar products.
Another way to make scampi even healthier is to make your own at home, and if it’s hard to come by where you live, you could always make something similar using a different type of shellfish or fish.
You can make scampi healthier by baking instead of frying, using just a small teaspoon of an unsaturated oil such as olive, sunflower or rapeseed, and using breadcrumbs instead of batter.
You can also keep your salt intake down by avoiding adding salt to your breadcrumb mixture. Try serving with a big crunchy salad and a baked potato.
Are there any vegetarian sources of the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish?Short chain omega 3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed, flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed, but they aren't the same type of fatty acids found in oily fish.
Oily fish contain the long chain omega 3 fatty acids. The long chain omega 3 fatty acids in fish have been shown to help protect against coronary heart disease.
Although our bodies can use shorter chain omega-3 fatty acids to make long chain ones, this process is very limited and evidence suggests that consuming the short chain omega 3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits as those in oily fish on the risk factors for heart disease.
Marine algae does contain the long chain omega 3 fatty acids. However, the effects of algae on heart disease have not been studied in enough detail to draw conclusions.
If you follow a vegetarian diet you can still look after you heart by eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day, trying to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat and watching how much salt you're eating.
Is it safe to eat Vietnamese River Cobbler?You might be concerned about the Vietnamese River Cobbler fish because you’ve read negative stories about it on the internet. You might be reassured to know that this fish, just like all other fish imported to this country, is required by law to be as safe to eat as British fish.
The Vietnamese River Cobbler fish is a species of Pangasius and is also known as Panga, Pangas or Basa. Sometimes you’ll see it with the name Catfish added at the end.
Vietnam, where this fish comes from, is one of the countries that has been authorised to export fish to this country and to the rest of the European Union (EU). To gain this authorisation, Vietnam will have been visited by the European Commission’s inspectors to check that standards of hygiene are equivalent to those required in the EU. Checks will also be carried out on fish as it enters the UK.
Nevertheless, if you have any concerns about the hygiene or safety of this fish, or any other you have bought or been served, then do contact the environmental health officer responsible for the enforcement of food law in the place where you bought or were served the fish.
The environmental health officer will be able to take this matter forward with the retailer and launch an investigation, if appropriate, to make sure the correct food hygiene procedures and checks are taking place.
I've heard that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid some types of fish. Why is this?You can eat most types of fish when you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby. But you should avoid some types of fish and limit the amount you eat of some other types.
When you're pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you shouldn't eat shark, swordfish or marlin. You should also limit the amount of tuna you eat to no more than two tuna steaks (weighing about 140g when cooked, or 170g raw) or four medium-size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can).
This is because these fish contain more mercury than other types of fish. The amount of mercury we get from food isn't harmful for most people, but if you take in high levels of mercury when you're pregnant this could affect your baby's developing nervous system. When you're breastfeeding you don't need to avoid shark, swordfish or marlin, or limit the amount of tinned tuna you eat.
When you're pregnant, you should generally avoid having more than two portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring, because it can contain pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).
Remember that fresh tuna is an oily fish, so if you eat two fresh tuna steaks in one week, you shouldn't eat any other oily fish that week. Tinned tuna doesn't count as oily fish, so you can eat this on top of the maximum of two portions of oily fish (as long as it's not fresh tuna or swordfish). But remember not to eat more than four medium-sized cans of tinned tuna a week when you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
There is no need to limit the amount of white fish you eat when you're trying for a baby or pregnant, apart from shark and marlin. When you’re breastfeeding, the recommendations are the same as those for all adults, you should eat no more than one portion of shark or marlin a week.
I read about salmon being fed something to make their flesh redder. What is it and is it safe?To increase the intensity of colour in fish, the additive canthaxanthin (E161g) is added to fish feed intended for farmed salmon and trout.
Canthaxanthin occurs naturally and belongs to a group of substances called carotenoids. These substances are related to beta carotene, the red/orange pigment present in carrots; and beta carotene itself is related to vitamin A. Canthaxanthin can be used in feed for trout, salmon and poultry (to enhance the colour of egg yolks).
In 1999, the UK's Food Advisory Committee and Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, looked at the use of canthaxanthin in feed and agreed that this use of the substance did not give rise to any food safety concerns.
At its December 2001 meeting, the European Commission's Standing Committee on Food considered whether ingredients used in animal feed to colour the final product should be indicated on food labels. Most Member States, including the UK, supported the view that this should be required and the Commission has agreed to set up an expert group to discuss the issues in more detail.
New rules introduced across Europe on 1 January 2002 require certain fish and fish products, including salmon, to be labelled with information about the production method (e.g. whether the fish has been caught at sea or in inland waters, or farmed) and the catch area.
How much protein do I need each day?Protein is essential for growth and repair of the body, and 15% of the calories we eat each day should come from protein. If you're eating a balanced diet you're probably getting enough protein.
Men need about 44 to 55g a day and women need about 36 to 45g protein each day.
Children also need plenty of protein to help them grow and how much will depend on what they weigh. As a general guide:
The following foods are all good sources of protein:
Why should women limit the amount of oily fish they eat now, if they think they might have a baby one day?Oily fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, eel and whitebait, can contain pollutants called dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). These can build up in our bodies over a long period of time.
Women shouldn't have more than two portions of oily fish a week, if they think they might have a baby one day. This is to help prevent high levels of dioxins and PCBs building up in their bodies because these could interfere with the development of the baby if they get pregnant in the future. If a woman changes her diet when she gets pregnant, or when she starts trying for a baby, this won't change the levels of dioxins and PCBs that are already in her body.
Fish is an excellent source of protein and it contains essential vitamins and minerals, so it is still important for women to eat plenty of fish, as long as they don't eat too much oily fish.
Women who aren't going to have children can eat up to four portions of oily fish a week. Men and boys can also have up to four portions. A portion is 140g.
Recent surveys have shown that some other fish and crab may also have similar levels of dioxins and PCBs as oily fish. These fish are: sea bream, turbot, halibut, dog fish or huss, and sea bass.
Anyone who regularly eats a lot of fish should consider choosing a wider variety – eating less crab and these five species, and more that have lower levels of pollutants, such as red snapper, haddock, coley or hake.
Are tinned sardines and pilchards high in omega 3 fatty acids, and do pilchards contain more than sardines?Sardines and pilchards are both oily fish, so they are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which can help to prevent heart disease.
Pilchards and sardines are both small fish in the herring family. Since they are essentially the same fish, they have a similar omega 3 content.
The canning process doesn't reduce the amount of omega 3 in sardines or pilchards, so both canned and fresh sardines and pilchards count as oily fish. Canned tuna doesn't count as oily fish because most of its oils are lost during the canning process. This is because tuna is cooked before it’s canned and most of the oil is lost during the cooking process. In contrast, oily fish such as salmon and sardines are cooked whole in the can and, as a result omega 3 levels are not affected.
Some brands of sardines and pilchards say on the can that they contain omega 3 fatty acids. But all canned sardines and pilchards will contain omega 3, whether or not it says so on the can.
A snack of sardines or pilchards on toast is a quick and easy way to fit in a serving of oily fish.
We should all eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. Girls and women who might have a baby one day, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, shouldn't eat more than two portions of oily fish a week. Other women, boys and men can eat up to four portions a week.
Do canned fish, such as tuna and salmon, count as oily fish?Salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and pilchards all count as oily fish when they're canned and when they're fresh. This is because the canning process doesn't significantly reduce the fat content of the fish.
Fresh tuna is an oily fish, high in fatty acids. But when it's canned, these fatty acids are reduced to levels similar to white fish. This is because tuna is cooked before it’s canned and most of the oil is lost during this process. So, although canned tuna is a healthy choice for most people, it doesn't count as oily fish.
We should all eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. A portion is 140g. Girls and women who might have a baby one day, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, shouldn't eat more than two portions of oily fish a week. Other women, boys and men can eat up to four portions a week.
People can eat as much tinned tuna as they like, except women who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant in the next year. These women should eat no more than four medium-size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can), or two fresh tuna steaks (weighing about 140g when cooked, or 170g raw).
If fish has been farmed, does it have to say so on the label?The label on pre-packed fish must show how it has been produced, for example, 'farmed', 'cultivated' , 'caught' or 'caught in fresh water'. The label must also state:
When fish is sold loose at a fish counter, the same rules apply. The information will generally be displayed on a sign next to the fish.
Are kippers oily fish?Kippers are herrings that have been split, gutted, salted and smoked. And because herrings are oily fish, kippers are too.
Kippers are smoked in a kiln at a temperature low enough to avoid cooking the flesh (below 33°C). So, always cook kippers until they are steaming hot before you eat them.
We should all be aiming to eat at least two servings of fish a week, including one serving of oily fish such as herrings, sardines, mackerel, trout and salmon (fresh or canned). Fish is an excellent source of protein and it contains essential vitamins and minerals. Oily fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease.
Traditionally kippers are served, either baked or grilled, for breakfast. But you could also try eating them with bread and a green salad for lunch or dinner.
Can you refreeze prawns that have been defrosted?It's better to avoid defrosting and refreezing prawns. When you defrost food, there's a chance that any harmful germs in it will grow and make you ill.
Prawns tend to go off quickly and don't last very long once they're defrosted. This is why it's important to follow any defrosting or storage instructions on the label.
When you buy prawns from a supermarket or fishmonger, they might have been frozen before, even if they aren't frozen when you buy them. Check the label or ask the person serving you, if you're not sure. You shouldn't freeze prawns that have already been defrosted.
You should defrost prawns in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge. This is to stop any liquid that might come out of them spreading germs onto other food. Once they are defrosted you should use the prawns within two days. When you cook or reheat prawns, always make sure they're steaming hot all the way through.
What’s the difference between fish oil supplements and fish liver oil supplements and can I take them during pregnancy?There are two main types of fish oil supplements available – those made from the liver of the fish and those made from the body of the fish. Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, should be avoided when you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. This is because fish liver oils contain high levels of vitamin A, as do liver and liver products such as liver pâtè. If you have too much vitamin A, levels could build up in your body and may harm unborn babies. Fish oil supplements that are made from the body of the fish do not contain high levels of vitamin A. However, it is better to eat fish than to take fish oil supplements, because as well as containing long chain omega 3 fatty acids, fish is an excellent source of other nutrients that are good for your health and your baby's development.
If you are concerned about where the fish oil in a supplement has come from contact the manufacturer.
People generally take fish oil supplements because of the long chain omega 3 fatty acids they contain. These fatty acids may help protect against heart disease. Some people think that taking extra omega 3 fatty acids while you're pregnant can help unborn babies' cognitive development. But at the moment there isn't enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions.
Knowing which food supplements to take during your pregnancy and those you should avoid can be confusing. While you should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from a healthy, balanced diet, some vitamin or mineral supplements are recommended during pregnancy. These are folic acid (400 microgram daily), from conception until the 12th week of pregnancy, and vitamin D (10 micrograms daily).
I've read about the benefits of eating oily fish and I'm worried I'm not getting enough. Usually I enjoy fish, but now I'm pregnant it seems to make me nauseous.We should all try to eat at least two servings of fish a week, including one serving of oily fish, as part of a healthy balanced diet. Oily fish, such as salmon, trout and mackerel, contain more long chain omega 3 fatty acids than white fish and these fatty acids may help protect against heart disease. But generally you should avoid having more than two portions of oily fish a week, because oily fish can contain pollutants called dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).
It's important to remember that when you're pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, you should avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin. This is because these types of fish can contain relatively high levels of mercury. You should also limit the amount of tuna you eat to no more than two tuna steaks (weighing about 140g when cooked or 170g raw) or four medium-size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can).
If you're suffering from nausea, you could try eating fish at a time of the day when you don't feel so unwell, or try disguising it in other dishes. It often helps if someone else can prepare and cook the food for you! Eating small amounts of food often, rather than large meals, and drinking plenty of fluids can also help to reduce nausea. The good news is that the nausea usually disappears around the 12th to 14th week of pregnancy.
Can oysters cause food poisoning?Oysters are nutritious – they contain minerals such as calcium and iron, and vitamins – and they're low in cholesterol too. Of course, they're also famed for their supposed aphrodisiac properties, which could be why a lot of oysters are eaten around Valentine's Day.
But eating raw oysters could cause food poisoning or hepatitis. This is because oysters filter large volumes of water to get their food and any bacteria and viruses that may be in the water could build up in the oysters.
If you're worried, you could cook your oysters – they will still taste delicious. There's also no reason to think that cooking will reduce any aphrodisiac properties!
If you want to eat oysters safely, follow these tips:
Will eating fish with worms in it make me ill?When fish is cooked thoroughly, so it's steaming hot all the way through, any worms in the fish will be killed and it will be fine to eat. Eating fish containing a dead worm shouldn't do you any harm. Eating fish containing live worms can cause inflammation in the stomach or the gut and make you ill.
Freezing raw fish also kills any worms. If a shop or restaurant buys fish to be eaten raw or almost raw, for example, sushi or raw herring, it must have been frozen at minus 20°C for at least 24 hours.
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