In recent publications we introduced you to fish and its distinctive characteristics, in addition to the relationship of fish consumption with the main causes of death in Portugal.

However, in health surveys, the Portuguese still think it is “difficult” to introduce fish into the family’s daily diet:

Although fish consumption in Portugal is more than double the average consumption of the European Union, according to the Portuguese food balance 2012-2016, fish consumption seems to have decreased slightly in recent years (Figure 1):

On the other hand, the National Food; Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (2015-2016) reveals that fish is the food group that contributes the least to daily calorie intake (only 2.9%), and on average about 36 g are consumed each day. This means that consumption happens between 2 to 3 times a week and not daily as recommended. But why is that?

The few studies conducted in Portugal on fish consumption point to price as the main barrier, followed by personal taste and the monotony of how it is prepared (boiled/grilled). Thus, canned fish seems to be an excellent alternative to fresh or frozen fish, because it is practical, inexpensive, and varied!

Have you ever wondered whether it’s healthy to eat canned fish? Without a doubt, it is!

It is a fact that food is still very fresh when prepared for long-term storage, guaranteeing that its nutritional qualities are preserved. Frozen vegetables are just one example, in addition to canned fish. In the case of the latter in particular, the fish is cooked and sterilized while still fresh and packaged in containers which are also sterilized and sealed so as to be durable and perfectly airtight (the shelf-life is 5 years).

The canning process does not change the nature of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates in food in any way. Fish protein retains all its biological value intact and is hydrolysed in the process, which facilitates digestion. Nevertheless, the rapid heat treatment of the can and the sterilization technique ensure that the original vitamin content is maintained: it is estimated that after the sterilization process 70% of the vitamins are preserved, which is truly exceptional, considering that only 10% of the vitamins are retained when fish is prepared and stored at home. One of the reasons for this is the aluminium can; it protects the fish from light, preserving the photosensitive components, such as vitamin A and the B-complex vitamins. Vitamin D also remains stable. Finally, it is also noteworthy that this process does not alter Omega-3, “heart-friendly” unsaturated fats that are good for health.

And what care should be taken to ensure that this daily consumption is healthy? We should opt for natural fish (canned in salt water), draining the liquid, rinsing the fish, then seasoning to taste with olive oil, lemon, fruit vinegar, herbs, etc. Fish canned in extra virgin olive oil is also an excellent nutritional choice!

So now you know: fish is life, so try to eat it at least 3 times a week. If you have little imagination when it comes to cooking, or need ready-to-eat options, canned fish are a good solution: they are practical, versatile, and tasty. Which canned goods to you have in your pantry? Have you tried “Roasted Sardines with Peppers”, “Sea Bass or Flounder in olive oil”, and ”Smoked Roe vegetables”? You’re in for a surprise!

 Dietitian Catarina Cachão Bragadeste, n.º 0402N
A Dietitian’s Daily Blog®

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