Mission nutrition: Healthy food that swims
Seafood is an important component of a healthful diet. Packed to the gills with nutrition, it is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals and iodine. Omega 3 fatty acid, which is present in abundance in seafood, is vital to good health. It boosts the immune system, brain function (including memory) and skin health.
It helps bypass heart disease and prevent cancer and relieve arthritic symptoms and asthma. Omega 3s are also anti-inflammatory. Many health practitioners recommend fish oil supplements to individuals with certain health conditions.
Marine food sources with the most significant amounts of Omega 3 are krill, sardines, anchovies, catfish, tuna, herring, salmon and mackerel. Shellfish, such as shrimp, crab, mussels and lobster, offer less of the beneficial fat.
Seafood is not limited to fish and shellfish. Nutrition-rich sea vegetables -- a staple of Asian cuisine -- have become more popular in the United States. Sushi, seaweed noodles, wraps and soups made from these vegetables are now served in many restaurants, and sold in supermarkets and health food stores. Some of the vegetables are dulce, nori, wakame, spirulina and chlorella. They are also used for their powerful medicinal value.
There is a catch however: Many lakes, rivers and seas are contaminated with industrial pollutants.
To minimize ingestion of these toxins when consuming fish and shellfish, opt for the smaller species.
Their shorter lifespan and position in the food chain prevents a significant toxic buildup in their bodies.
The same applies to farm-raised fish; the smaller types contain a smaller amount of pollutants, as well as hormones and antibiotics. Eating a variety of seafood in rotation also helps. Fish skin should be discarded, since that is where the bulk of toxins are stored.
For cooking seafood, think outside the frying pan! Frying any food is extremely unhealthy. The intense heat during the frying process alters the oil chemistry to become cancer-promoting. In addition, frying diminishes the Omega 3 potency, and requires using large amounts of oil, which increases the food's caloric count.
Numerous scrumptious dishes can be made with frozen or fresh marine-based food, by baking, grilling, poaching or cooking soups and chowders. Because all seafood cooks faster than it takes to change a light bulb in your microwave, you can prepare fabulously tasting dishes in literally, minutes! Get your fishing gear ready, and let's dive into a tsunami of marine cuisine! Flavor is on the menu: bon appétit!
Fishy pita filling
4 oz can kippered (smoked) herring fillets
2 carrots, grated
1-1/2 apples, cored, chopped
1 cup alfalfa sprouts or shredded Romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 whole-wheat or multigrain pita bread, warmed
In a medium bowl mix all ingredients, except pitas. Cut each pita in half. Carefully open and fill each pocket.
2 cups uncooked, whole grain corkscrew pasta
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 cup white cooking wine
Cook pasta in water and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Drain. In a skillet, heat remaining oil and cook onion (covered) 12 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Cut bell pepper into 1 inch strips. Add garlic, bell pepper, oregano, salt and pepper to onion mixture. Cook 7 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan cook shrimp in water and wine for 7 minutes. Drain. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve warm or cold.
with lemon dressing
0.45 lb fish catfish or tilapia filet per person
Zest of half a lemon, finely grated
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dill weed, optional
Rinse fish and place in a skillet, skin-side down. Wash hands. Add water 1/4 inch deep. (Fish should not be covered by water.) In a cup, mix lemon zest, juice, salt, pepper, and oil. Drizzle lemon dressing on fish and evenly coat with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle dill, if using. Cover and cook gently 15-20 minutes. Fish is ready when fork-tender at its thickest part. The resulting lemon sauce can be served with any cooked whole grain, or potatoes.
Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor, The Rath Education Center, Lakeland, and a member of the American Nutrition Association.