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SEAFOOD CAN HELP YOU CUT DOWN CHOLESTEROL

When it comes to health, you can't afford not to add seafood to your family's meals. Most fish and shellfish are low in both total fat and saturated fat.

Experts say that cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, is the place to start to lower blood cholesterol levels. The little fat that fish and shellfish provide is high in a special oil called called omega-3 fatty acids. They appear to protect against heart disease by interfering with blood clot formation and by preventing the buildup of plaques that narrow and clog blood vessels to the heart. Try these simple ideas to work more fish into your family meals:FISH FOR THE FRESHEST

- Buy only from reputable dealers with clean facilities. Ask if their seafood is certified by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference.

- Use your nose. Don't accept seafood with a fishy or ammonialike smell.

- Use your eyes. Look for fish with shiny, moist skin and clear unsunken eyes. The flesh should spring back after it's depressed.

- Heed fishing advisories. If you fish, check with your local public health department or fish and wildlife commission to see if any advisories affect your favorite fishing spots.

- Keep fish cold. If kept cold, lean fish will hold in your refrigerator for two to three days. Oilier fish will keep for up to two days. Test your refrigerator to make sure that it is 32 degrees F or store fish on ice.

- Keep fish clean. Handle raw seafood separately from cooked foods or foods that will undergo no further heating. Thoroughly wash any utensils that come into contact with raw seafood.

EAT MORE FISH

- Substitute fish for meat and chicken in recipes. For instance, transform sweet-and-sour pork into sweet-and-sour swordfish.

- Serve meat-lovers firm-fleshed fish, such as swordfish, mahimahi, shark, halibut and fresh tuna.

- Start kids on seafood when they're young and forming eating habits.

- Make the change gradually, working up to three meals a week that are based on fish.

- Cook fish at a high temperature, in a short time, and watch closely.

- Dress it up. Fish doesn't have to be served in traditional ways. Sauce it, stew it and put it into soups, salads, pasta and stir-fries.

- Beat the cost of seafood by trying less familiar (and usually lower cost) types, such as cusk, catfish, shark, pollack or mussels.

10-MINUTE TIP

- To cook fish, follow the 10-minute tip. Bake, grill, broil, poach or steam fish 10 minutes for each inch of thickness. For baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

- Measure at the thickest part, tucking under tail ends to assure even thickness.

- Fish is done if the center part just starts to flake when pricked with a fork. The flesh should change from translucent to opaque.