DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - September 14, 2007

Epicure: Something fishy in the kitchen

by Jacqui Love Marshall

In my commitment to eat healthier, I've been cooking more fish these days. The benefits of eating fish are numerous and fairly well known but they bear repeating. Most fish provide high levels of protein with little calorie or saturated fat content, substantial levels of the "good" fats like omega-3s and a range of vitamins (e.g., B's) and minerals (e.g., phosphorus, magnesium). The omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health but they cannot be made by the body; they must be obtained from the foods we eat. Moreover, fatty fishes are loaded with helpful DHA, a member of the omega-3 family.

We've all heard fish referred to as "brain food" and there's truth to that rumor. According to the George Mateljan Foundation's Web site, The World's Healthiest Foods: "An exciting, fairly recent development is the realization that omega-3 fats have the potential to help slow cognitive problems such as Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive decline. Also, people who have sufficient levels of omega-3's (especially as compared to omega-6 fats) seem to have less depression and suicide risk, as well as less aggression. In one study, giving prison inmates this type of fat (plus vitamins) reduced aggressive behavior by a third in a mere two weeks."

Per health experts, two weekly servings of fish can lower total cholesterol, lower the bad cholesterol, and raise good cholesterol levels. Three weekly servings of fish can lower the risks of heart disease and stroke by 14 percent. Regular healthy servings of fish can lower or control high blood pressure, build immunity, protect against deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, lower risks of prostate and other cancers, and help fight obesity, eye diseases and childhood asthma. A miracle food? Maybe, maybe not, but all these benefits point to better health so why not cook and serve more fish to your family?

My favorite fish choices are wild salmon, small lake trout and Alaskan halibut. They are the healthier varieties as they are generally more free of mercury and other contaminants than other varieties. (Note: As I've mentioned before in other columns, always ask the grocer where exactly their fish came from and when it arrived at the store.) All are quite tasty and hold up well on a grill but can be pan-fried or baked. One easy way to serve these fishes are to add a vegetable (asparagus, green beans, baby bok choy, etc.) and a salad or grain (couscous, polenta, etc.) and you've got a wonderfully appealing and healthy meal. But don't stop there ... fish is so versatile that the cooking/serving possibilities are endless! Here are three of my newest favorite recipes. I hope you will try at least one.

Jacqui lives in Danville with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at jlovemarshall@yahoo.com.

Recipes

Fennel-Coated Pan-Fried Halibut (serves 4)

Smoked Trout and Grapefruit Salad (serves 4 as entree, 8 as side dish)

Grilled Salmon with Garlic and Baby Bok Choy (serves 6)

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