Break out of your seafood rut with these delicious and nutritious alternatives to the usual fish.
Written by: Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D.
Brimming with good-for-you nutrients, fish is a food that the American Heart Association recommends we consume at least twice per week. But if you’ve fallen into a seafood rut – tossing salmon and shrimp into your cart every week – swapping in some of the following options from the fishmonger is a tasty, environmentally savvy and nutritious way to break out of it.
Nutrition Windfall: Cast your line for rainbow trout and get an impressive 800 mg of omega-3s per three-ounce serving. For good health, experts recommend an average daily intake of 250 to 500 milligrams of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. On top of this good fat, mild and slightly sweet rainbow trout provides a wealth of B vitamins, selenium and protein. The protein found in trout and other fish is particularly high in the amino acids needed for skeletal muscle repair, making this swimmer a great addition to a post-run repast.
Green Pick: Most rainbow trout in the U.S. market is farmed in Idaho, where closed containment aquaculture systems are widely used to prevent contamination of surrounding waterways. For this reason, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program gives farmed rainbow trout a Best Choice rating, making it a smart alternative to farmed salmon.
Eat This: In a bowl, combine two diced kiwi, one diced and seeded jalapeño pepper, juice from one lime and 1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro. Season rainbow trout fillets with salt, pepper and cumin powder. Place trout in a skillet skin side down, cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Flip and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until flesh becomes opaque. Serve fish topped with kiwi salsa.
Nutrition Windfall: Perhaps the expression “holy mackerel” comes from the bonanza of protein, vitamin B12, selenium and heart-chummy omega-3 fats present in this blissfully lowbrow swimmer. A three-ounce serving of mackerel contains a whopping 4,300 milligrams of omega-3’s. More great news: Mackerel is one of the few foods that supply a generous amount of Vitamin D. Scientists believe Vitamin D can reduce the risk of a myriad of maladies including heart disease, cognitive decline and certain cancers. By helping improve calcium absorption, this wonder vitamin can also reduce stress fracture risk.
Green Pick: Most ocean environmental groups give mackerel their stamp of approval as the fishery is well-managed with healthy stocks due to fast-breading tendencies.
Eat This: Fresh mackerel is often sold whole, so kindly ask your fishmonger if he will clean it for you if fish entrails freak you out. To cook it, simply stuff the cavity with any seasonings that please you such as sea salt, thyme and sliced lemon and grill or pan-fry for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping once halfway. Smoked mackerel is wonderful on hearty whole-grain crackers or in place of deli meats in sandwiches.
Nutrition Windfall: Native to Australia and Southeast Asia, this whimsically-named swimmer has a slightly buttery flavor and offers a hearty 600 to 800 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per three-ounce serving, about three times more than fellow white-fleshed fish including cod and tilapia. With less than 140 calories per serving, reeling in Barramundi can keep you on good terms with the scale.
Green Pick: Most of the barramundi available in the U.S. is being farmed in Asia by Massachusetts-based Australis Aquaculture. Fortunately, they’re raised in a manner that greatly minimizes contact with wild species and the release of pollutants into surrounding waterways. The same cannot be said for a large portion of salmon farming. Barramundi’s largely vegetarian feed ensures very low levels of potentially harmful contaminants (such as mercury) building up in its flesh. At present, farmed salmon requires upwards of three to four pounds of wild-caught small fish for its feed to produce one pound of flesh, resulting in a net loss of protein from the sea.
Eat This: You can find barramundi on the menu at an increasing number of restaurants. Also look for packages of plain and seasoned Australis frozen barramundi filets at major supermarkets for about $8 per 12-ounce bag. Virtually any recipe calling for other fish such as salmon and tilapia can be adapted to make use of barramundi instead. Here’s a tasty idea: In a saucepan, bring one cup of pomegranate juice and ½ cup balsamic vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, until it has thickened into a syrup consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir in two chopped scallions and ½ teaspoon orange zest. Cook unseasoned barramundi according to package directions and drizzle pomegranate glaze over top.
Nutrition Windfall: Of interest to runners, mussels are chock full of iron. As iron is an essential component of proteins involved in transporting oxygen to working muscles, low iron levels can result in lethargic runs. Mussels also contain a strikingly high amount of Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin that the body uses to make red blood cells and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. It is essential too for fat and protein metabolism and may slow mental decline with age. An abundance of the antioxidant selenium can help mop up nefarious DNA-attacking free radicals.
Green Pick: About 90 percent of all mussels consumed are cultivated, but the farming process does not rely on fishmeal to grow, shuns the use of antibiotics and other chemicals and actually has a beneficial impact on the quality of the surrounding waters.
Eat This: In a large pot combine a can of coconut milk, juice from one lime, a handful of chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes to taste. Bring to a boil, add two pounds of rinsed mussels, and simmer covered until mussels pop open. Discard any that stay shut and serve coconut liquid as a dipping sauce.
Matthew Kadey is a Canadian-based dietitian and food writer. Find him at www.wellfedman.com.