Fish Soup | 8 Health Benefits & Risks to the Consumers

In recent years, the risks and benefits of consuming fish soup have aroused public debates and drawn the attention of the scientific community. This is according to the assessment conducted in January 2010 by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Risks and Benefits of Fish Consumption. Whereby, it concluded that moderate consumption of a variety of fish is recommended.

However, the risks and benefits assessment of fish soup consumption has not been reported. Hence, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) conducted a study to evaluate the risks and the benefits of fish soup consumption on a limited scale. And is going to submit the results to the World Health Organization.

Fish Soup

Basically, cooking fish or rather preparing fish soup with tomato sauce is a time-honored West African practice.

Not forgetting, tomato sauce is used to enrich stews, to thicken soups and mainly because it is economical. Especially when you have too many mouths to feed.

The only downside to me, when incorporating tomatoes is that it is a lengthy process as opposed to other American-based tomato sauces.

Why is Fish Soup important?

Besides the ongoing debates, there’re a variety of methods to prepare the fish soup. Bearing in mind, a fish soup – that tasty white fish stew oozing with rich tomato sauce and earthy flavors is a light meal. Particularly that is quick and easy to whip and can be customized easily according to preference.

In addition, a number of fish varieties contain many essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality proteins. And in general, bone broth has become very popular recently, especially among health-conscious individuals. This is because it’s believed to have many health benefits.

Fish Soup

Although there is no published research on bone broth itself, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests drinking it may be very beneficial.

Restorative, nourishing, and filled with age-defying collagen, Homemade Bone Broth, especially fish soup seems to be everywhere these days. It is easy and versatile to prepare.

When I first heard about the benefits of fish broth, I was hesitant. I knew how good bone broth was for me, and it made sense that fish stock would be, too. But could I get past the… heads? It turns out that I could.

Of course, I got a little help from an article in Modern Farmer that described, in decadent detail, how scrumptious these oft-forsaken bits of fishy heaven could be.

The health benefits of fish broth far outweigh a little queasiness over the use of fish heads, tails, bones, and other remnants. Trust me, the final result is worth it (and doesn’t even taste fishy!)

Fish heads do more than benefit your health, as you’ll soon find out. And you might already be eating them. Below are the main benefits;

1. Brain

Speaking of intelligence, fish broth is a Powerful Brain Food, in every sense of the word. It provides a mix of fats, vitamins, and minerals (and amino acids, too!).

And that’s perfect for putting your brain in prime condition. Fish, in all forms, has repeatedly been shown to slow cognitive decline and improve memory.

2. Iodine 

Homemade fish stock is often touted as an excellent source of Iodine. That’s a good thing, especially if you like fancy salts.

That Himalayan Pink Salt in your pantry is most likely not fortified with this vital micronutrient. And that could be hurting your IQ.

Low iodine levels and iodine deficiencies, although rare, are linked to problems like obesity, lower IQ, goiter, and hypothyroidism, among others.

One of the most important and unique benefits of fish broth is the iodine it adds to your diet. Drink up – it’s time to make sure you’re as smart as you can be.

3. Calcium

Calcium is a bone-building mineral that also helps muscle contraction, coagulate blood, and release hormones and enzymes in the body, among other functions. Good stuff. Without it, your heart couldn’t beat.

What’s in bones? You guessed it – Calcium. Fish broth is no exception, and if you make your own homemade fish broth, you can save the bones.

Once they dry, you can crush them into a fine powder in your food processor. And then combine them with a little salt for a dash of added flavor and nutrition – and calcium – in your meal.

4. Thyroid & Dieting

Hypothyroidism is a growing problem, but fish broth might have an answer.

Rich in thyroid-supporting nutrients, it’s a food that many nutritionists recommend to support thyroid health. If you’ve got hyperthyroidism, however, steer clear.

Life on a specialized diet can be difficult. Add to that the desire to eat in a way that matches your morals and life gets really complex.

Vegetarians who crave the health benefits of bone broth can relish in the fact that fish broth is often considered nutritionally superior to meat and poultry bone broths. But doesn’t require the death of any mammals or birds.

5. Gelatin & Stamina

Calcium isn’t the only bone-building component of fish broth. This culinary treat is also a great source of gelatin, which contains collagen, something most of us are quite familiar with.

Although the jury is still out on the overall impact of gelatin on bone and joint health, the anecdotal evidence is strong. It’s a popular remedy for osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and numerous other conditions, not all of which are bone-related.

Even bone broth skeptics agree on one major point: bone broth (and fish broth) is an excellent athlete’s drink.

Post-game or competition, a little bone broth can help the body replenish electrolytes and hydrate. An added benefit is the amino acid content. Fish broth’s amino acids can actually help muscle repair and recover post-exercise.

6. Fats & Vitamins

Vitamin bioavailability is a big concern for many healthy eaters, myself included. What good is taking a supplement or eating specific foods to gain nutrients if they aren’t bioavailable?

Luckily, the fish soup contains a delectable combination that your health will love. It includes high quantities of healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as fat-soluble vitamins.

Healthy fats + fat-soluble vitamins = nutrition delivered where your body needs it.

7. Minerals

Fish broth is loaded with vital minerals outside of those already discussed in this post. From trace amounts of rare minerals to abundant quantities of calcium and iodine.

It’s an excellent way to pack more nutritional punch into your day. And in other words, the health benefits of fish stock aren’t limited to the ones you personally experience. When you eat this delicious broth, it’s beneficial for other people and the planet, too.

8. Energy-intensive

As an example, every year, hundreds of thousands of fish heads, skeletons, and fins are discarded. In 2011, Norwegian fishermen dumped more than 220,000 tons of “fish parts” at sea after processing their catch. The bulk of a fish’s weight is in its head, and much of that weight is edible.

Aside from the obvious waste that would be eliminated if more people ate fish broth made with boiled fish byproducts like the head and skeleton, there’s another factor to consider. The planet.

Raising cattle and poultry is energy-intensive and requires hundreds to thousands of gallons of water. Boiling the bones of livestock into the broth is also energy-intensive. Taking from 12-48 hours, depending on the recipe and type of bones being cooked.

Wild-caught fish don’t require excess energy or freshwater to raise, and cooking fish broth takes 2-4 hours, making it significantly less energy-intensive to create.

How do I prepare Fish Soup?

If you’re squeamish, the preparation of fish broth at home is daunting. It starts with fish heads. How’s that for intimidation?

Well, I’m not the kind of person who deals well with food that stares back. I don’t even drink coffee from mugs that are head-shaped. It’s creepy.

Fish soup is prepared by mixing seafood or fish with stock, vegetables, another liquid, water, and juice.

And basically, hot soups are obtained by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot till the flavors are extracted forming a broth.

Soups are classified into 2 main categories;
  • thick soups and
  • clear soups.
Bouillon and Consommé

Bouillon and consommé are the established French classifications of clear soups. The classification of thick soups depends upon the type of thickening agent used.

For instance, cream soups are thickened with béchamel sauce, bisques are prepared from pureed shellfish. While vegetables thickened with cream and veloute are thickened with buttereggs, and cream.

Fish Soup Recipe

The common ingredients used to thicken broths and soups are lentils, rice, grains, flour, and other soups include potatoes and carrots. Since early times, fish soups have been prepared. Some serve with large chunks of vegetables or fish left in liquid.

One of our favorite family recipes of all time is this simple and easy fish soup. It takes less than 30 minutes, from start to finish, and is absolutely delicious! And the key ingredient to this stew is clam juice, which they sell in shelf-stable 8-ounce jars, so we usually keep a couple in our pantry.

I have prepared the soup for people with shellfish allergies; the thing to do is to substitute the clam juice with white wine, fish stock, or water. It works, it’s just not quite as tasty. The stew works best with a firm white fish, such as halibut or cod.

You could also use red snapper or even tilapia. Just stay away from delicate fish such as sole for this stew, or oily fish such as tuna. And if you want, you can add some shrimp, clams, and/or scallops to the stew as well.

Of course, apart from fish soup, the general public is advised to maintain a balanced and varied diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables. And with this in mind here is a Quick Easy Fish Stew Recipe.

How do I remove the Fish acidity?

Acidity in fish sauce is often shunned in most West African Countries, so to reduce the acidity in stews, you would have to cook it for a lengthy period. I find that the addition of the earthy flavors of curry, white pepper, and smoked paprika somehow shortens the process.

My secret spice here is Thai Basil – you really need to give a try, available in various markets, local farm markets, and even online markets (buy fresh Thai basil on Amazon).  What’s so special about it? It’s slightly spicy, aromatic, and pungent than the regular basil. And on its own, it has a more anise and licorice-like scent to it.

When paired with this fish stew it adds a certain layer flavor and exoticness to it. It truly does. But, okay, forget about the basil,  if you have been trying to eat a bit healthier, then this fish stew fits perfectly into your dietary needs.

It is quick and easy to make and you can even omit the cooking oil altogether. Be sure to pick out the freshest white fish available. Like red snapper, tilapia, pompano, or even mackerel.

What are the Risks of Fish Soup?

On one hand, fish may contain higher levels of contaminants. Such as methylmercury, and dioxins, and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

This may pose risk to the fetus and infant if the pregnant or lactating women drink fish soup frequently. Besides that, fish contain high-quality proteins and many essential nutrients. Such as long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn3PUFAs) (i.e. omega-3 fatty acids).

Foods linked to better Brainpower

Pregnant women, women planning a pregnancy, and young children should avoid eating predatory fish. As well as the types of fish that may contain high levels of methylmercury. For example, tuna, alfonsino, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, and king mackerel.

The main risks in the fish soup are;
  1. Methylmercury,
  2. Dioxins, and
  3. Dioxin-like PCBs
Mercury in Fish and Food Safety

First of all, Methylmercury, an organic form of mercury, is the most toxic form of mercury. For one thing, it can cross the placenta into the fetus in pregnant women. Building up in the fetal brain and other tissues.

In addition, infants may be exposed to methylmercury through breast milk. But its transport from blood to milk is less efficient than transport across the blood-brain and blood-placenta barriers. Therefore, methylmercury exposure of infants through lactation is lower than the exposure of the fetus.

For reference of the study report on methylmercury in different types of fish, please read and learn more about the Medical Definition of Methylmercury.

Dioxins in Fish and Food Safety

By the same token, Dioxins and Dioxin-like PCBs are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) ubiquitous in the environment. Dioxins occur naturally and as by-products of combustion and various industrial processes. In contrast, PCBs were manufactured in the past for a variety of industrial uses. And their uses have been banned by most countries since the 1970s.

In that case, concerns on dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are mainly due to their toxic effects on a number of systems. Including endocrine and immune systems, the developing nervous system, and their cancer-causing potentials.

Equally important, Dioxins and Dioxin-like PCBs can excrete from breast milk and once they enter the body, they last a long time. Simply, because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Their half-life in the body is estimated to be 7 to 11 years.

For reference of the study report on methylmercury in different types of fish, please read and learn more about Dioxins and their effects on human health.

Summary;

Fish broth is a delicious, vegetarian alternative to the bone broth that offers a surprising range of health benefits. If you haven’t tried it, it’s time to give it a taste.

From improving thyroid health to increasing your brain power and helping you rehydrate after a sporting event, fish broth health benefits are many and the time it takes to make a good homemade fish stock is negligible.

Keep in mind that you need to simmer your fish broth over low heat in order to make sure you extract the most nutrition from the fish, but don’t get the heat so high that those nutritive components break down in the cooking process.

When it comes to preparation, I’m not a fan of messy filleting and butchering, so I get it if you can’t get past the idea of cooking with fish heads. You can still get fish broth in your diet, however. Pre-made fish broth is a great option for many home cooks.

Having fun with fish broth recipes? Share this article to help your friends and family join in the adventure. Waste less, live better and nourish your body. Eating fish broth regularly is a great way to get started.

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