Whether fresh or frozen, seafood has always been a top recommendation as a great source of protein, minerals and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Thanks to modern food technology, you don’t have to worry whether one or the other gives you a nutritional advantage. Frozen seafood does not have less nutrients and is just as safe as fresh seafood. In fact, the newer method of flash-freezing fish represents a strong case for you to revisit what “fresh” means in choosing fish. Here are some surprising facts.
You probably enjoy the idea as most fish-eaters do of a fish caught on the very day that you want to cook it and eat it. You imagine that the fish will be delicious and will impart the fresh, salt-water aura of the sun and warm breeze on the waves. The reality may be somewhat different, where fresh fish may take days to reach your store. Some vessels stay out at sea for days, not hours.
In a more modern freezing process, called flash-freezing, seafood is frozen immdiately after it’s caught. Today’s catches can be processed and frozen immediately to very low temperatures, right on the trawlers. The seafood makes its way to the plant before reaching you at the store. The fish is never thawed until you use it.
Because the fish is frozen instantly, all moisture inside the tissues is preserved, sustaining all the juices, texture and flavor that you would enjoy when eating fresh fish. The added benefit is that the quick-freezing process puts an end to microbiological activity in seafood. That means you don’t have to worry about pathogens that cause food poisoning. Quick-freezing seals in nutrients as well.
You may be one of the many consumers who do not know a lot about seafood other than the fact that fish is healthy and often delicious. In other words, standing at the seafood counter of a large impersonal supermarket and trying to select a fresh fish or seafood, looking out for telltale signs of spoilage, can be difficult. You would prefer not to guess. Questions that determine safety can be overwhelming. How long has the fish been sitting on ice? How long did it take to get the fish from the boat to the distributors to the stores?
The questions are fair to think about, nonetheless. Health-wise, it is important to remember that fish is quite perishable and spoils easily. According to the FDA, fish left out in the sun too long – or in transport under improper refrigeration – can develop toxins. There is no sense focusing on the nutritive values of a tainted fish. Omega-3 fatty acids and protein must take a back seat to the threat of food poisoning. The FDA recommends that you exercise as much caution when selecting frozen fish as you would in selecting fresh fish. Here are the guidelines.
- Don’t buy frozen seafood in a package that is crushed at the edges, opened or torn.
- If you see any frost or ice crystals, leave the package alone. That may be a sign that the fish thawed and was refrozen.
- Don’t buy any package that looks as if it has thawed juices.