Fishy Resolutions

January 10, 2017 in Health, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

I realized that I’ve not mentioned New Year’s resolutions this year; but I appreciate that many people have embarked upon goals to get healthier this year; possibly including weight loss. Maybe some have read the US Life Expectancy stats. It is a little difficult to face the fact that for the first time in well-over twenty years the US life expectancy has declined. Certainly, this is likely related to a wide array of worsening health problems. Although suicide, alcoholism, drug overdoses and accidents were included in the rise in early fatalities, heart disease, stroke and diabetes also rose. One of the hypotheses is that a great part of these new stats rests upon the increase in obesity. Avoidance of obesity is certainly in line with getting healthier in mind, body, and spirit.

Now that there’s good evidence that belly fat is linked to fatty liver and insulin resistance and thus, diabetes/heart disease, getting healthy takes on a little more power in motivating us to be cognizant of belly fat. In addition to regular exercise, three of the most effective eating styles to avoid belly fat and thus diabetes and cardiovascular problems are: omitting sugary drinks (including juice); eating a Mediterranean diet; and eating whole grains.

Since I’ve written an abundance of articles about the Mediterranean diet/Mediterranean Style of Eating; the trouble with sugar/s; and even more about consuming whole grains, today I decided to focus on only one aspect of the Mediterranean diet – consuming fish.

Because I spent many of my growing-up years at my hobbyist fisherman grandfather’s California home, fish was part of our regular diet. We never questioned fish as a meal. When I moved to the mountain west, over sixteen years ago, I was surprised at how many people flatly stated that they didn’t eat fish.

Bear with me for a small digression. In addition to being surprised at the number of people who don’t eat fish, there was another surprise for me – a winter surprise. When we’d drive by reservoirs in the winter, we’d behold people out in the windy 10-degree air, fishing through a hole in the ice. Seriously? My native, southern Californian blood freezes at the very sight. I’d say, “That’s dedication to having local fish, year round.”

I’ve had some friends talk to me about getting started with consuming fish. I’ll share a few of the hints that I’ve shared with them.

  • Keep a variety of fish in the freezer. This works well for most people. For me, I can grab it easily and make a relatively fast meal with vegetables, brown rice and maybe a little fruit. Note how this particular Mediterranean menu strikes on all cylinders: Whole grain, fruit and vegetables, and fish.
  • For easier cooking, put solidly frozen fish directly into the skillet. This can work very well if you follow a few tricks. I put a little olive oil in the bottom of a non-stick skillet; then add the frozen fish. Sprinkle with a little seasoning (salt and pepper; lemon pepper; herbs; or McCormick’s rotisserie spice). I start the heat at medium-high, and then as soon as the pan heats up, I turn it down to a lower temperature. I cover the pan to avoid splattering, but (this is important) I vent the pan (set the lid a little ajar) so that the steam does not poach the fish. If you cover a pan containing a delicate frozen fish, it may fall apart. I use a sharp salad fork to test that no part of the fish is still frozen before removing it from the skillet.
  • If you purchase frozen fish, you can frequently save money. Remember when you’re looking at the price, that filleted fish has no waste.
  • Now days, frozen fish is as good as, if not better than, fresh fish. Fish is generally pulled from the water, filleted and frozen within hours of the catch. Certainly that preserves the quality and nutritional value.
  • Nutrition published a concise little chart for storing frozen fish. You may like to refer to it if you are going to eat more fish this year.
  • There’s room for all of us to experiment, learn and grow as related to fish consumption. One very interesting recent article, published on January 6, 2017, by PBS Newshour is: Can the seafood industry get Americans to eat local fish? I’m ready to try dogfish (a type of shark), but first I have to find it. My guess is that I’m going to enjoy it.
  • One of the ways that I serve fish is with a fruit relish. Simply chopped up avocados, mangos or peaches are popular with our family. I keep frozen peaches and mangos in the freezer too; so they’re ready to go.
  • Don’t forget that not only is fish a good component of Mediterranean eating, it is often quite a bit lower in calories than meat and even poultry. Even a fattier fish like salmon is only 144 calories for 3 ounces. Just a quick comparison, steak is about 203 for 3 ounces. White fish like cod or dogfish are about 70 calories for 3 ounces.

If you’ve decided that you don’t want your own life expectancy to trend with the country, you can see that including fish in your diet is one easy way to begin chipping away at extra weight and improving your health in the New Year.