Fishy, But Good

July 2, 2013 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Health, Health Claims, Mediterranean, Nutritionism by Joyce Bunderson

Thirteen plus years ago I moved to the mountain west from southern California; among the many differences that I noted, were that there seemed to be more people that didn’t eat fish. What I really mean is that I’ve met many people who had not even tasted fish - ever. Growing up with a grandfather whose main hobby was fishing – he wasn’t partial to the body of water, he’d fish fresh water rivers, lakes and streams and the ocean pier, boat and surf – he enjoyed them all. As a result, a variety of fish were frequently part of our dinner selections. We didn’t eat fish as frequently as we eat it now, but it was usually a couple times a week.

First let me tell you about one of the latest studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on April 2, 2013.  This particular study not only found a reduction in the cardiovascular disease but also showed that the fish-eating subjects lived longer; especially if they were age 65 or older. You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 to benefit, but it reminds us to include more fish, even if we’re already past that age. As a matter of fact, the researchers found that those who benefited the most were those who went from no intake to a modest intake of about two servings of fatty fish (Think salmon, trout and tuna, for example.) per week.

In another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on May 9, 2013, Italian researchers found that taking fish oil capsules did not reduce the cardiovascular disease and death. Alice Lichenstein, director of the cardiovascular nutrition lab at Tufts University in Boston, is quoted by Yahoo News as saying that the results of the study show that people can’t rely on a pill to make up for a bad diet.  She said, “It is sort of like breaking a fish oil capsule over a hot fudge sundae and expecting the effect of the calories and saturated fat to go away.” In this blog we like to remind our readers of the evils of nutritionism – the pretense of pill marketers or additive marketers that their pill or their additive will really do all the good things you get when you eat the whole, real food.

Now that we keep building the evidence that actually including fish in our diet benefits our health and longevity it becomes important to find ways to help people embrace fish as a menu item. My belief is that it need not be expensive, difficult or disagreeable. There are ways to prepare fish and greatly enjoy every bite.

Some of the least expensive sources are canned fish. In addition to the price of canned fish, there is an additional benefit for using some of the canned varieties. When you choose canned salmon with the bones included or canned anchovies or sardines, you get the calcium that comes from the bones left in the fish. The canning process causes the bones to be soft and pleasantly edible; just mix into the recipe. (Promise – no choking on these softer-than celery bones.)

Making fish cakes (patties) is actually as easy as cooking a hamburger patty. You just have to mix the fish in with tasty ingredients, then form the patties. Search for recipes online that sound yummy to you. The interesting thing is that fish cakes are one of those recipes that do not have to be exact. Egg is usually the binder; so don’t forget to cook thoroughly. Some ingredients that you may want to experiment with are: mashed yams or potatoes; lemon zest; garlic, fresh chopped dill, parsley, minced celery, green onions, as a place to start your creative recipe creation. Consider adding some drained and chopped sardines or anchovies to your standard salmon patties to increase the calcium and omega-3 content. Sautee the patties in extra virgin olive oil until they are golden brown and crispy to keep them healthy.

Try kabobs. Skewer firm fish like mahi-mahi, tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut and alternate with veggies or fruit.

A drained can of tuna or albacore flaked on top of a mixed salad is delicious. Serve with guacamole, hummus, nonfat yogurt dressing or your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

Fish fillets that are individually wrapped and frozen are standard fare at our home. I just cut the plastic off and put into a skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil. Cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar so the steam doesn’t collect. It only takes a few minutes and with a little lemon pepper or rotisserie spice we have tasty fish easily prepared. Of course, you can put your fish directly on the grill – be sure to have the firm varieties that are recommended for grilling. Another way is to wrap salmon or halibut in foil; add lemon slices and some ground pepper; and put on the Barbie.

Tuna sandwich is an old standby.  You can make it with nonfat Greek yogurt to reduce the need for mayonnaise.

I’m certain that you could share some great ways that you make fish, but whatever you do, get started.