The Sunday Leader

Eating Fried Fish Is Not Healthy

By Dr. Harold Gunatillake – Health Writer

Unhealthy cooking methods destroy food nutrition

Fish, vegetables and fruits are God-given nutritious foods you can bet on for good health, and promote healthy longevity. But, most of us subject those healthy nutritious food to palatable unhealthy cuisine through varied cooking processes. It is seen in most television cookery demonstrations, just for taste and presentation, the natural food is given a good beating to destroy their nutritious value.
Let’s discuss the health benefits of eating fish:

·     Asthma — It is observed that those children who eat fish regularly are less likely to develop asthma.

·     Brain and eyes — Omega-3 fish oil found in the body of the fish can contribute to the health of the developing brain tissue in the pre-natal and post-natal periods, among babies.

Omega-3 also contributes to the health of the retina, the light sensitive lining on the inner surface of the back of the eye.

·      Cancer — Omega-3 fish oil may reduce the risk of many types of cancers, especially oral, esophageal, and breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.

·    Dementia — It is observed that when old people eat more fish, their chances of getting depression and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease are much less, including cognitive decline. In one study it was found that suicidal risk and aggression was much less when fish was fed to prison inmates.

·     Diabetes — Fish may help people with diabetes to reduce blood sugar levels. It is a good substitute to eat as a full meal without adding high GI foods like rice and bread.

·     Inflammatory conditions — Regular fish eating is supposed to bring down the symptoms of inflammatory diseases in the body, such as rheumatic arthritis, psoriasis and autoimmune diseases. This is mainly due to the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fish oil.

·    Heart disease and stroke — It is found that eating fish or seafood at least twice a week may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing blood clots and inflammation, improving blood vessel elasticity and lowering blood pressure, lowering blood fats and increasing ‘good’ cholesterol.

Latest research has revealed that people who live in the so called “stroke belt” in United States, which stretches from the Carolinas to Arkansas and Louisiana and where stroke rates are among the highest in the country, are less likely to eat the recommended two servings of fish per week. Further people in this state when they eat fish are supposed to have it in fried form. These were the findings from a study by Dr. Fadi Nahab, director of the stroke programme at Emory University Hospital.

He further said, “In this part of the U.S., the odds of people eating the federally recommended two servings of fish a week in non-fried form are 17% lower than in other areas of the country. People in the stroke belt are also 32% more likely to be consuming two or more servings of fried fish each week than other Americans.”

Nahab, a neurologist, had an interest in explaining why stroke-belt residents are 20% more likely to have a stroke than those living elsewhere in the U.S.

It turns out that most of the fish being consumed was fried, which negated its potential stroke-preventing benefits on several levels. First, as studies by researchers in Spain have found, the act of frying fish can cause fatty fish such as salmon, which is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, to lose its beneficial oils; those oils get replaced with the often unhealthier oil in which the fish is fried. In addition, the types of fish that are normally fried, such as cod and other white fish, tend to be less dense in omega-3 fats.

More evidence from Harvard researchers on a study of more than 4,700 older people indicates that eating fried fish or fried fish sandwiches was associated with a higher risk of stroke.

Conversely, the study also found a direct relationship between consumption of broiled or baked fish and a reduced incidence of stroke, according to a report in the January 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the study, consumption of broiled or baked fish once to three times a month was associated with a 14 percent reduction in stroke risk. Eating broiled or baked fish one to four times a week was associated with a 28 percent reduction in stroke risk, while the risk was 32 percent lower for people who ate fish in those forms five or more times a week.

To preserve the nutritious value of fish, they can be steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, pressure cooked, or curried in boiling water with spices, condiments, and other ingredients, as practised with Asian recipes.  Microwave oven cooking and frying in heated oil destroys omega-3 and other nutritious elements of fish. In Spain, as mentioned earlier, research studies have shown that frying fish can cause fatty fish such as salmon, which is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, to lose its beneficial oils; those oils get replaced with the often unhealthier oil in which the fish is fried.

Fish & Chips

Special mention needs to be made of all those who eat “fish & chips” regularly.

In these take away joints you could see how the slices of fish (fillets), coated with batter are fried in large containers filled with boiling oil. Such cooking destroys all nutritious value of the fish except the unique taste.

Furthermore, frying potato chips in the same oil will destroy the nutritious value including the vitamins in the chips. It is also  known that the brownish colour produced in frying starchy foods emanates a cancer producing chemical called ‘Acrylamide.’

Frying or barbecuing meat and fish containing proteins creates polycyclic hydrocarbons, such as benzopyrenes, which are also one of the main constituents in cigarette smoke that cause lung cancer.

Colombo, the main capital of Sri Lanka is loaded with American hot food joints: you only have to drive through Rajagiriya area to notice the number of such places; Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, and other names mainly patronised by the young generation. Fortunately, you hardly see any fish and chips food outlets. It is possible that fish is expensive in Sri Lanka for the average person to buy, and would be uneconomical to serve in such outlets.

Salmon Nutrition

In Sri Lanka salmon fish is so expensive only the rich can enjoy it. It can be grilled, can be cooked in many different ways, and doesn’t dry out as easily as many other fish. It comes fresh, frozen, smoked and canned. Wild salmon can be eaten without fear of excessive contaminants or mercury, and it has a very high nutrient profile, including omega-3 oil in the body of the fish.

Salmon has a high content of vitamin D, B12, B6, magnesium, niacin and selenium.

It is fortunate that unlike other fish, salmon is not usually fried in oil and the nutrient values are preserved. Hence, health-wise it is on top of the range.

Any fish will provide you with the maximum nutritive benefits provided they are cooked by any process other than frying. That would be the message.

Recipe for Kerala Fish Curry –



400 gms fish pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp tamarind pulp
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
2 dry red chili
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp soaked rice
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp oil
Salt To Taste

How to make kerala fish curry:

·     Apply salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder to the fish pieces and keep aside for 15 minutes.

·    Lightly roast cumin and coriander seeds. Mix with dry red chillies, soaked rice and grated coconut.

·    Grind it to a smooth paste. Soak tamarind in half a cup of hot water. Heat oil in a pan.

·    Add chopped onions and chopped ginger. Cook on a high flame till onions are golden brown. Stir in fish pieces and add 2 cups of water.

·     Bring it to a boil. Stir in coconut and spice paste. Mash tamarind dissolved in water to make a pulp.

·     Strain and add to the gravy. Simmer for 2 minutes and finish with coconut milk.

·     Add fish pieces and cook on a medium flame for 7-8 minutes or till the fish is done.

Warning – If the curry is too hot, keep some ripe bananas beside your plate. Enjoy.

1 Comment for “Eating Fried Fish Is Not Healthy”

  1. Suren

    Can any one post the recipe for thalapath fish curry?

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