Leaves are changing, pumpkin is, well, everywhere, and the temps are dropping. Fall is clearly in the air. You know what else October brings?
National Seafood Month. I know, probably not what you were expecting to hear. But since we’re here, let’s talk about seafood, why it should be part of your diet, and a really simple but tasty way to make it a regular menu item.
First, seafood is one of the healthiest foods on the planet when balanced, of course, with other foods (veggies, grains – nothing new). Cold water fish is high in omega 3 fats and protein and has plenty of other vitamins and minerals as well.
Let’s focus on their superpower that is harder to come by in the diet: omega-3 fats. There are many known benefits of including omega-3 fats in the diet. First, they’re known as essential fats meaning the body cannot make them on its own and instead must obtain them from the diet, such as cold water fish (and/or supplements).
As an aside there’s another type of essential fat, called omega-6 fats, which we also need to get from the diet, but rather than coming from seafood, comes from foods such as processed foods made with margarines and vegetable oils, such as corn and soybean oils, among others. We certainly don’t need to add these as we get plenty from our everyday diet.
It’s also important to note seafood isn’t the only source of omega-3’s, but it’s really the best when it comes to providing the key omega-3 fats we need. Other plant-based sources like flax, hemp and chia seeds, nuts, leafy greens, etc are all amazing for you but don’t provide the omega-3’s in the right doses that we need.
Let’s get into that for a minute.
There are actually three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In food, EPA and DHA from fatty, cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines). ALA, by comparison, comes from the plant based options I just outlined.
All omega-3 fatty acids are essential, which means your body doesn't produce them as it would, say, vitamin K. So that means you have to consume omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
And all omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to better heart health, but here's the catch: the research is stronger for some acids compared to others.
While ALA omega-3s are known to have some heart-health benefits, the evidence for EPA and DHA omega-3s is stronger and more specific. In particular, the science for EPA and DHA supports a risk reduction for coronary heart disease, cardiac death, and myocardial infarction (heart attacks) as I’ll highlight in a bit based on a brand new study that just came out.
EPA and DHA may also lower triglycerides and blood pressure and there is strong evidence for cognitive health, prenatal/maternal health, and eye health.
ALA haven't been shown to possess that same depth or breadth of benefit. While there is a role in the diet for plant-based omega-3s like ALA, the fact is, most Americans typically get enough ALA. Think about it this way: ALA is like old school, bulky hoodie that maybe worked in 1995 -- compared to an EPA/DHA Rhone Spar Hoodie.
Both hoodies, but both don't quite operate or perform at the same level.
It’s also important to know that nearly 95 percent of Americans don’t consume enough of EPA and DHA, according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey.
Here’s some specific data though from a brand-new research study that might convince you to be the omega-3 anomaly. This study found omega-3’s are associated with:
A reduced risk of fatal heart attack
A reduced risk of a heart attack
A reduced risk of coronary heart disease
This particular study is the most comprehensive analysis to date on the topic of omega-3 fats and its role in heart disease prevention. Now, to be fair, this study talked specifically about supplementation but it’s also important to add seafood as well.
Long story short.
Take a high-quality omega-3 supplement that provides at least 1 g of EPA + DHA. Daily.
Eat seafood regularly and pretend every month is National Seafood Month. After all, the American Heart Association (AHA) and other governing bodies have included fish as part of their dietary guidelines for the prevention and treatment of disease so it shouldn’t just be this month, but every month thereafter as well.. The AHA recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, sardines, tuna, etc) at least two times a week.
Here’s one way to meet their recs.
FISH TACOS (SERVES 4-6)
For the Fish:
1 tbsp avocado oil
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb. wild cod (or other flaky white fish)
1 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fish Taco Sauce
1/4 c. mayonnaise
½ cup plain, Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro
1 – 2 tbsp chipotle peppers, chopped
Fish Taco Slaw
3 cups shredded cabbage (green and/or red)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp avocado oil
¼ cup, chopped cilantro
1 tbsp salt
In a medium shallow bowl, mix together seasonings for the fish.
Coat fish in avocado oil
Sprinkle fish with seasonings and let sit.
Preheat the grill (or pre heat an iron skillet on the stove) on high.
Mix together ingredients for sauce (NOTE: add chipotle, to taste).
Mix together slaw ingredients and let sit.
Place fish in an iron skillet and place on preheated grill.
Cook fish for about 15-18 minutes, depending on thickness (aim for about 10 minutes, per inch) until it flakes off easily.
When done, remove fish from grill.
Serve fish over tortillas with sauce and slaw. Squeeze lime juice on top, if desired.