Seafood Myth Busters

Top four seafood myths and their offshoots
In this blog post, we’ll take a close look at some of the false concepts floating around (pun intended) about seafood. We’ll see whether these notions are purely fictitious or if they have an element of truth in them.

Myth 1 – DAIRY

Much A Moo About Nothing


In our culture, the most common myth that’s persisted for far too long is that seafood and dairy can’t be consumed together. There has been no scientific evidence or study that proves this theory however many people believe this to be true. It’s a myth that extends to other milk-based products such as yogurt and cheese. And, the myth gets very specific mentioning that combining dairy with fish gives one skin ailments.

Myth 1.1

Seafood and milk, a toxic combination.

An unfounded myth. Many traditional seafood dishes have a cream-base for which milk is used:

Fish Pie

This British classic recipe involves poaching fish like cod, salmon, and haddock or halibut in milk. The subtle sweetness of the milk adds richness to this classic comfort food.

Fish Pie

Poisson Meunière

Passion is French for fish. Some versions of this French recipe dip the fish in milk, to help with the browning, before rolling it in flour.

Myth 1.2

Seafood and yogurt, a toxic combination.

An extension of the milk and seafood myth. Many popular Indian recipes are testament to the fact that not only is this belief untrue but also that these two make for a delicious combination.

Yogurt-based curries and marinades

There are countless recipes in India that use yogurt for marinating the fish. Yogurt adds a tang to balance the spices used for flavouring a dish.  The subcontinent’s favourite appetiser, the fish tikka, is such a hit due to the contrasting flavours of the yogurt marinade’s subtle sourness with the spicy, smoky-ness of the tikkas. Bengali doi maach, cooked in a yogurt-based gravy, also captures well this interplay of flavours between spices, mustard oil, and yogurt.

Unless, you’re lactose intolerant or you have a seafood allergy, there’s no cause for you to be concerned while having seafood and dairy together. Especially since there’s no scientific proof of that supports this urban legend. Just be mindful that both these foods are perishable, hence, buying unadulterated, fresh produce from a trusted source is of prime importance. Of course, it is still a matter of taste, you may or may not like to combine these two foods depending in whether the interplay of flavours appeals to you or not. However, it would be taking it too far to actually believe that the two are a poisonous combination.

Good things can happen when fish and dairy come together. Don’t miss out on such experiences simply due to some old wives’ tales.


Nothing fishy about it!

Fresh seafood doesn’t have a strong smell

A common misunderstanding is that all seafood has a strong odour. Well, fresh fish usually only has a mild smell. Once it is out of water, if the prescribed quick freezing process is not followed to preserve the freshness of the catch then it begins to decompose pretty quickly, emitting a foul odour.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, states, “Fish begins to spoil immediately after being removed from the water. This is reflected in gradual developments of undesirable flavours, softening of the flesh and eventually substantial losses of fluid containing protein and fat. By lowering the temperature of the fish, spoilage can be retarded and, if the temperature is kept low enough, spoilage can be almost stopped.”  They further mention, “The freezing process alone is not a method of preservation. It is merely the means of preparing the fish for storage at a suitably low temperature. In order to produce a good product, freezing must be accomplished quickly. A freezer requires to be specially designed for this purpose and thus freezing is a separate process from low temperature storage.” Read more here

So, how a fish is handled, what process is followed for maintaining its freshness, and whether the right equipment is used for all of this plays a big role in how it smells. Basically, this belief that seafood in general has a ‘fishy’ smell is false. This myth probably came to be due to the fact that proper procedures for preservation of seafood are not necessarily followed by all hence it is more than likely that most people would’ve experienced this rancid smell, one time or the other at the fish market, when the fish on sale has begun to rot.

However, it is important to make the distinction between the smell of fresh seafood vs that which has begun to deteriorate in quality; fresh raw produce only has a faint smell, it does not have a ‘fishy smell’.

Myth 2.1

So, seafood that smells fine is good for consumption.

Although smell is an indicator of freshness, it is not the only indicator. Hence, if a fish smells fine it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fresh. In addition to the smell, the texture and colour also need to be taken into consideration. There multiple indicators of freshness and you should be mindful of all of them when you’re buying fish. Here’s some quick tips to help you with the signs you should look for when assessing the quality of seafood.


The long and short of it

The fact of the matter is that overeating any kind of food, even those that might popularly be considered as healthy, is not advisable. Each food type offers some nutrients that are beneficial to our health. Instead of looking at food in a one dimensional way- high cholesterol vs low cholesterol or fatty vs low-fat – one should have wider perspective when it comes to what constitutes one’s diet. For example, certain seafood might have high cholesterol but at the same time it might be heart healthy as it could be a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. So, by eliminating it from your diet you might do more damage than good to your health. A more pragmatic approach to food consumption lies in eating a well-balanced diet. Include as many food types as possible (no, junk food is not a food-type, by food types we mean vegetables, meats, dairy and seafood) and eat the recommended portions on a weekly basis to supply your body with the nutrients that it needs for optimal functioning.

A well-balanced meal

Consult your physician if you feel that some food types might be doing you harm but please do not self-diagnose and eliminate foods by following food-trends found on the internet; remember the old phrase, “half the knowledge is dangerous.”


Stocking up for a rainy day

Storm front approaching

Another myth is that eating seafood during the monsoons is bad for your health. Well, to begin with, sea voyages during the rains are hard to make. Plus, this also happens to be the spawning season for fish along the Western Coast. So, considering that we would not like fishermen to make risky sea journeys for our seafood it makes sense not to source sea catch during this season. But this does not mean that eating seafood during rains has an adverse effect on your health. The rain does not hamper the digestion of fish. If that was the case then the tropical countries of Southeast Asia, that are blessed with plentiful of rainfall through the year, would not be consuming seafood all year round.

Not going out to sea to fish during the monsoon season is desirable, but not eating seafood during monsoons is not logical. Both, because of the advancement in fish farming as well as cold chain management and technology. The cold chain management in seafood trade allows us to preserve fish for 18-24 months hence, making it possible for fish to be sourced from across the country and be made available for consumption during the rainy season.

Bottom-line is that if you’re buying frozen seafood from a trusted source there’s no reason for you to not enjoy a sizzling fish steak or warm fish broth on a cold, rainy day.

Enjoy your bowl of fish soup on a cold, rainy day

Our Take

Myth making is a part of all cultures, seafood culture included, but it does us no good when we’re no longer able to tell fact from fiction. In the case of seafood, when we begin to believe stories that are untrue it stops us from getting the most out of our seafood experience. For you to enjoy seafood as it’s meant to be, question what you hear, see if there’s any scientific proof to support these theories and then make informed choices. It’s definitely worth the trouble.

Image Credits

Image Credit: Cover – Pixabay

Image Credit: much a moo about nothing
Image Credit: Fish Pie
Image Credit: No Smell
Image Credit: Balance Meal
Image Credit: Storm front approaching
Image Credit: Fish Soup

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