The Healthfulness of Fish Oils

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Why should fish and not Angus steers provide the highly unsaturated fats that turn out to be good for us? Because oceanic waters are colder than pastures and barns, and most fish are cold-blooded. Throw a beefsteak in the ocean and it congeals; its cells are designed to operate at the animal’s usual body temperature, around 100°F/40°C. The cell membranes and energy stores of ocean fish and the plankton they eat must remain fluid and workable at temperatures that approach 32°F/0°C. Their fatty acids are therefore very long and irregular in structure, and don’t solidify into orderly crystals until the temperature gets very low indeed.