istock-656716960-1-.jpg

Fish and Meat Comparison

Is there any difference between meat or fish? Isn’t fish meat, or is there a different classification between fish and other meats? It’s still a debate that is continuing even now. Many believe and claim that fish is not in the same category as meats like beef or pork. Yet, fish is clearly an animal, and their fillets are made of animal proteins that is basically what you find in other meats. So…What’s the difference between the two, if any?

Both have protein and moisture content. Meat, however, is a generalized term used for all animal flesh and includes even the skeletal muscles, associated fats and other tissues of an animal.

How Does the USDA Food Pyramid Classify Meat and Fish?

In the 1940s, the US had a food wheel instead of a pyramid. Meat and poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas, and nuts for peanut butter were all listed as alternative sources of protein. The food pyramid was first published in Sweden in 1974, and meat, poultry, fish, beans, and eggs were all viewed as similar sources of protein. By 2005, a new updated simplified model for the US had simply, “Meat and beans,” as the only choices of protein with illustrations of other sources. In 2011, the pyramid was replaced with My Plate—even simpler. It recommends a portion of protein but does not specify the sources of protein. Since the government began making recommendations, they have always categorized meat and fish as the same. The trend is generally to view not only meat and fish as the same but animal and vegetable sources equal and interchangeable. So in essence, the standard food pyramid or My Plate doesn’t have a clear answer.

Red Meat Versus Fish

Both fish and meat, such as beef, pork, and chicken can provide healthy nutrition, while poultry and fish are the best sources of protein and iron. Both have their place in a healthy diet. However, cutting down on red meat and increasing your fish consumption may vastly improve your health.

Both have protein: Protein, made of amino acids which are the essential building blocks for tissue, skin and muscle are necessary for life. Out of 20 amino acids, 10 of those can only be obtained through dietary sources and these amino acids make up the complex molecules of protein.

Fats: Here is where fish and other meats begin to highly differ. Red meat has a far higher fat amount than fish and the fat in red meat is mostly saturated fat. Saturated fat is the most harmful to those watching their cholesterol levels or who may already be experiencing high cholesterol levels. Saturated fats raise lipoprotein levels which are considered “bad,” cholesterol.

Compare a 3 ounce serving of lean ground beef to a 3 ounce serving of salmon: the beef has 15g of fat compared to the 4g of salmon.

Speaking of fat, fish contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which is an unsaturated fat that benefits the heart rather than increasing the risk of heart disease.

  • Two crucial omega-3 fatty acids come from certain fish: EPA and DHA. Your body needs these to function.
  • Fish can lower triglyceride levels, lowering the risk of stroke or heart disease.
  • Fish can help fight the stiffness and joint pain of Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Baby development assist: DHA appears to be important for visual and neurological development in infants.
  • Fish can help reduce blood pressure levels
  • Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together
  • Omega-3 can help reduce fat in your liver
  • Omega-3 is excellent for your skin

Since fish is one of the best, primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, the health benefits of consuming more fish and less beef, pork, poultry for example—seems to set the two far apart.

Texture

Fish has a unique texture when compared to beef, chicken, game, and poultry. It’s a more delicate and soft texture. This is because of the way their muscle fibers are arranged. Compared to land animals, where our muscles are arranged in long bundles, fish muscles are short—typically less than one inch—and arranged in sheets. These arrangements of fish muscle are separated by collagenous sheaths of connective tissue which causes fish to flake apart. Compared to land animals, fish also have lower amounts of collagen in their muscle. Land animals can average 15% collagen, fish average around 3%. Fish collagen tends to break down much easier, giving fish a softer texture when eaten.

Cooking

Cooking land animal meat and fish are entirely different from one another. Fish muscle fibers are shorter than beef muscle fibers, and fish collagen dissolves easily when exposed to heat—so fish cooks quickly and there should be no tenderizing needed for fish. The biggest challenge with fish is not having it flake apart, as the muscle fibers cook quickly at a much lower temperature than other meats.

Iron

Where fish lags behind is its content of iron. Fish isn’t as high in iron as red meats or land-animal meat. Certain seafood does have iron, like oysters, clams, mussels or sardines, but compared to the iron found in cooked beef, poultry or pork the best source for iron is red meat or land meat.

Generally, we consume land-meats far more than we do fish. The main difference between meat and fish is that consuming more fish has a long list of health benefits that tend to outweigh consuming just beef, poultry, pork or game in general. For those with iron deficiencies or pregnant moms to be, still eating red meat is important but balancing that with at least 2-3 servings of fish every week ensure you are getting the right amount of essential omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats.

Fish is clearly different in the fact that it has lower risks for high cholesterol or can help lower cholesterol for those already in treatment for high levels. Eating fish has even been associated with better moods, better sleep, and is a benefit to skin.

If texture and toughness of land-meat is an issue, the softer, flakier, more tender choice of fish can be a much more pleasant meal experience.

Red meat tends to be fatty. Eating lean meat or trimming fat in smaller amounts will contribute to a healthier lifestyle; but the convenience of tossing a good piece of fish in the oven or skillet while having to take the time to trim the fat off a piece of steak can clearly be easier than the latter.

It’s clear that what separates fish from meats—meats as we know of as beef, poultry, pork, and game makes it the healthier of the two choices, and the most convenient. Adding the right portions of fish to your diet can benefit your physical and mental well-being greatly.