Growing up with two sets of grandparents from the West Indies, I was fed fish from a very young age. A staple in many of the native dishes, fish is a great source of iron and protein. Eating fish meant that I ate all parts of it. It was only until my adolescence that I realized that the majority of people that prepare meals with fish in them toss out the head of the fish. To this day, it puzzles me, as many are doing this based on aesthetic reasons and eating the rest of the fish for taste and health reasons. If health is really a focal point then many should know that the head is packed full of good fat, more meat and in turn more nutrients than some of the popularly consumed body parts.
Most North Americans and Europeans miss out on the joys of fish heads, as the most common practice is to eat only clean, boneless filets. It may surprise you to know that due to such little demand for fish byproducts worldwide, most heads, tails and carcasses are processed into livestock feed or farm fertilizer or even thrown back into the sea. According to a recent report published in the journal Trends in Food Science and Technology, Norwegian fishermen alone dumped an estimated 220,000 tons of wild fish parts at sea in 2011 after processing their catch on the water.
Not only does it create waste in our oceans, it’s also a waste of highly nutritious food and a pollutant. Fish bones, brains, cartilage and fat are nutritious, and contain high levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and calcium. In most fish, the head, including the collar behind the gills, amounts to roughly a third of the entire fish itself.
If you’re taking a fish oil supplement of any kind, the odds are that the head of the fish was taken and used to make the supplement. With so many nutrients and vitamins packed in, the notion that fish heads are to be tossed is something that we in the US need to reverse for a number of reasons.
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