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Hilsa is not just for taste, but also for health benefits!

10 July, 2021 11:50:24
Hilsa is not just for taste, but also for health benefits!

The majestic downpour of monsoons from the middle of June is a welcome relief from the sultry, humid summers of Bengal. The host of problems that the rainy season heralds including waterlogged streets, leaking roofs and diseases are nothing compared to the Bengalis’ zest for life because for the Bengali epicurean, the monsoons are also a time to look forward to a bumper harvest of the best Ilish maach (Hilsa) that come with the season. In the riverine landscape of Bengal, which includes both the East and the West, fish is an integral part of the daily diet. Not only is it the staple diet but the fish is also of customary significance with ceremonies related to marriage, birth, and death. However, no other fish evokes the kind of emotion and pride that the ‘King of Fish’ Hilsa does.

Hilsa fish is prepared in multiple ways. It can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked, and prepared with mustard and various condiments. Ilish Macher Tel Jhol, Doi Ilish – Ilish prepared with curd,  Bhapa Ilish—steamed hilsa with mustard sauce,  Fried Ilish roe, Ilish Machher Korma, Ilish Machher Biriyani, Smoked Hilsa, Ilish Macher Tawk. Ilish Machher Tel Bhaja -- Ilish gut offal fry …. The list is never-ending. It needs very little oil for cooking since it has a high content of oil. It is also cooked wrapped in banana/plantain leaves. Ilish and Bengalis have a symbiotic relationship. It is not only the most sought-after fish by a Bengali gastronome for gratification of his soul but the fish is a storehouse of essential minerals like protein, zinc, chromium, selenium etc. and has very high nutritional value. The health benefits of this fish surpasses many super foods. Let’s take a look how?

Blood Circulation - The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in marine fish. Studies have shown that EPA and DHA are important for proper fetal development, including neuronal, retinal, and immune function. EPA and DHA may affect many aspects of cardiovascular function including inflammation, peripheral artery disease, major coronary events, and anticoagulation.

Zinc – During COVID times, many physicians have been asking us to take zinc rich food as it strengthens the immune system. Hilsa is rich in minerals like protein, zinc, chromium, selenium etc.  Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Selenium helps the body make special proteins, called antioxidant enzymes. These play a role in preventing cell damage. 

Arthritis - Omega 3 fatty acids have direct association with osteoarthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have immune-modulatory properties as they act as precursors to lipid mediators of inflammation which may limit or modulate the inflammatory response. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to prevent or attenuate arthritis.

Beneficial for the heart - Hilsa fish is very good for the heart and high content of Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart health by decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure and reducing blood clotting. 

Help people suffering from depression - Hilsa fish contains arginine which is one of the amino acids the body needs to function properly. Like other amino acids, arginine plays a role in building protein. The body can use the protein to help build muscle and rebuild tissue. A new study shows that people suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) have reduced arginine levels. Moreover, the high quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids in hilsa fish protects against cancer. It is also useful in relieving asthma and very effective in preventing common cough and cold.

Skin care - Omega three fatty acids protect the skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Eating fish regularly protects the skin from eczema and psoriasis. The protein in hilsa fish is one of the components of collagen. Collagen is a hard, insoluble, and fibrous protein that act as supporting structures and anchor cells to each other. They give the skin strength and elasticity. The collagen helps to keep the skin tight and supple and prevents onset of ageing.

Stomach care- If you have hilsa fish in your diet, stomach problems are reduced significantly. The omega three fatty acids protect the body significantly from stomach ulcers and colitis.

So now you know why for centuries, Bengalis have been known for their characteristic devotion to Ilish Machh and adda. Come monsoon and Bengalis make a beeline for the fish markets to scout for the season’s best catch and the moment a fishmonger is spotted selling Ilish, people head towards the seller. Grabbing the silver beauty even at an-otherwise-ridiculous-price is a matter of great pride and more often than not, most buyers get a kick as they return home victorious, prominently displaying their precious Ilish.  It is all done in good humous because  Hilsa has always been and will remain an integral part of Bengalis across the borders.

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