Barramundi the “Super Food”

Written by Dr Harold Gunatillake FRCS-Health writer

When you talk of fish, what comes to once mind would be the common swordfish, salmon, mackerels, herrings, Tilapia and so on?  May be, they are the common fish available in the US, so much is written about them. They are also commonly found in the arctic, Antarctic’s and Asian and Pacific waters.

Barramundi labelled as a ‘Super Fish” is not listed with the above, when one rattles off the names of fish. May be it is a fish most popular and found mainly in Queensland coastal region in North Eastern Australia and not in most other countries. The fish is farmed in the US.

It is a white-fleshed native Australian fish with a firm texture and mild, buttery flavour, barramundi is also known as the giant perch or Nair fish and in Sri Lanka referred to as “Modhi” by the local fishermen.

Dr Oz describes barramundi as a superfood. He says eat now for its anti-aging, immune boosting and cancer fighting properties. He further states, “If Barramundi fish were a human, he would be a tree-hugging, salad-loving vegetarian. The Barramundi, hailing from the coast of Australia and parts of Southeast Asia, eschews his fellow fish, dining on plankton (a mass of tiny animals and plants floating in the sea or in lakes, usually near the surface, and eaten by fish and other water animals) instead. Barramundi don’t eat fish. They are more vegetarians though they are carnivorous, hence higher concentrations of omega 3 than most other fish and hardly contaminated with mercury.

Barramundi available in the markets in Australia are farmed. They are fed with grain and 80% vegetarian diet.

The mercury load in Barramundi is almost nil, as they do not eat other small fish contaminated with mercury. An ideal fish for expectant mothers. In Sri Lanka and other Asian countries, for years expectant mother were fed with shark (Moru in Sinhala). Hence, nicknamed as “Kiri Moru” (milk shark).

"The Atlantic" food writer Barry Estabrook, use it in any sea bass or red snapper recipe calling for grilling, roasting, broiling or sautéing. The National Smart Seafood Guide advises choosing only barramundi farmed in the United States, because others are not as highly regulated.

Low in fat: A 6-ounce fillet of fresh barramundi contains 140 calories, and 13 percent of this amount -- approximately 18 calories, or 2 grams -- comes from fat. For a woman on a 2,000-calorie diet, a serving of barramundi would supply only 2 to 3.5 percent of her recommended daily limit of fat (quoted by Michelle Kerns). Further, she states: Barramundi contains no saturated fat, although it does have 70 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 23 percent of the total a healthy adult should have each day. Columbia Health assures that, despite the cholesterol content, the health benefits of fish like barramundi still make it a good choice in a balanced diet.

Omega 3: Omega 3 fatty acids are much higher in barramundi compared to salmon, mackerel or herring. Eating two slices of barramundi per week supplies adequate amount for most adults. It is known that omega 3 fatty acids may help to lower the blood cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and neurological conditions.

Excellent quality of protein
A man needs about 56 grams and a woman about 46 grams of protein a day. Six ounce filler gives ¾ of the protein requirement for the day. Eggs too have high quality proteins.

Minerals and Vitamins
Like any other fish barramundi is a source of many minerals and vitamins such as selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin A and calcium. These micro-nutrients are required to boost your immune system and support cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Flavour
Barramundi flesh is white and has a different flavour to most other big fish. It has a mild buttery flavour and a dense meaty texture. It is a cook’s dream.

Farmed Fish
There wouldn’t be enough fish in the ocean in the long run to feed the increased population of human beings. Farmed fish equate the balance. Furthermore, Barramundi fish swims to the rescue of maintaining the balance as they are mainly living on plankton and not smaller fish and maintains a sustainable aquaculture.
Barramundi is weird looking with a small snout and broad body. They are catadromous- meaning living in salt water (ocean) and breeding in fresh water, unlike salmon doing just the opposite

They are well domesticated as they get stuck in billabongs (collected water areas), they stay calm unlike other species (Josh Goldman). They are adaptable for vegetarian feeds.

Fishing in tranquillity
Sri Lankans fishing enthusiasts and tourists are lucky that Bogoda lake is one of the best locations for barramundi fishing. Meet with the crew at the activity centre in Bolgoda and embark on the perfect inland fishing expedition. Enjoy four hours of uninterrupted fishing at the ideal spot with no distractions.

The gorgeous lake provides many varieties of fish. Species such as the Barramundi, Mangrove Jack, Bull-eyed Mackerel and even Barracudas can be found in these waters when the salinity levels increase.

Barramundi is available in the fish markets. Ask for Modhi the local name given to them.

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