When buying fish from your favorite fishmonger, you might find yourself stumbling upon two fishy terms: white fish and oily fish. Hardly matters to you? Believe it or not, there’s more to these terms than just their name implies. Knowing the difference between the two could be very helpful in choosing the best fish to be served on your dining table.
White Fish: For the Diet Conscious
White fish, as the name suggests, may refer to any species of fish that sports a white meat. Fishes under the cod family, namely haddocks, hakes, and coley, as well as flatfishes like halibuts, flounders, and plaice belong to this category. These types of fish are also known as demersal fish, which means they usually live and are caught near or on the seabed.
In white fish, the oil is concentrated in the liver, making the meat less fatty. It is a healthier alternative for those people who are looking forward to include high-protein and low-fat meat in their diet. Furthermore, white fish is rich in selenium and B vitamins, which play an important role in your body’s cell metabolism. Lastly, the meat is also a great source of iodine. This essential nutrient helps reinforce your thyroid functions, which are in charge of regulating your body’s metabolism, muscle control, bone maintenance, and brain development.
Most white fish meat is light and flaky. It has a better shelf life compared to its oily counterpart. White fish is eaten as it is, and is used in several other products such as fish sticks. It is also mainly used in making the great British fish and chips.
Oily Fish: Your Heart’s Best friend
Oily fish includes a wide category of fishes that live in open seas. Examples are prey fishes such as sardines, herrings, mackerels, and anchovies, and bigger predatory fishes like tuna, salmon, blue marlin, and swordfish. These fish also known to be pelagic (relating to the open seas), because they usually live beyond shallow waters and away from the sea floor.
Unlike white fish, the fat of oily fish is distributed throughout its body, constituting up to 30% of the fillet, although this amount varies depending on the specie. Because of its fat, the meat is an excellent source of vitamins A and D, but it is best known for its higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (white fish has lower concentrations of this nutrient). Omega-3 fatty acids help minimize the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other ailments associated with old age. It is also an essential nutrient in brain development, making it ideal for children.
Oily fish can be prepared in many different ways, and its meat is not flaky compared to white fish. However, it is best consumed within a couple of days of purchase as its fat makes the meat more susceptible to deterioration.