Are you like many cooks who rarely, if ever, grace your dinner table with the treasure trove of foods from our majestic seas? This very thought came to me recently. After rereading my own blog post about the nutritional promise of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a nutrient often touted as a special youth serum that’s abundant in sardines, I made myself a promise to eat more of them. Perhaps you’ve not read about RNA? If not, I invite you to read my blog post “The Warming Power of RNA.”
I am, for the most part, a red meat person. But I recognized after rereading my RNA blog post that I was missing out on some essential nutrition that sardines and other types of seafood have to offer. If you’re not big on fish, here are some nutritional facts and some easy recipes that may encourage you to make these phenomenal foods a frequent part of your diet.
Seafood: Types and Basic Nutritional Facts
According to WorldAtlas.com, the most popular seafood products in the United States, in order of their preference, are as follows.
Shrimp is a unique source of the anti-inflammatory carotenoid nutrient astaxanthin.
From WebMD.com: “Astaxanthin is a reddish pigment that belongs to a group of chemicals called carotenoids. It occurs naturally in certain algae and causes the pink or red color in salmon, trout, lobster, shrimp, and other seafood.” (Emphasis mine.)
From “What’s New and Beneficial About Shrimp” (WHFoods.com): “It is possible for a single 4-ounce serving of shrimp to contain 1–4 milligrams of astaxanthin. In animal studies, astaxanthin has been shown to provide…support to both the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. In addition, some animal studies have shown decreased risk of colon cancer to be associated with astaxanthin intake, as well as decreased risk of certain diabetes-related problems.”
From “What’s New and Beneficial About Salmon” (WHFoods.com): “With so much focus on the amazing omega-3 benefits of salmon, other unique health benefits from salmon may have been inadvertently overlooked. One fascinating new area of health benefits involves the protein and amino acid content of salmon. Several recent studies have found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules (called bioactive peptides) that may provide special support for joint cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin (sCT) has been of special interest in these studies. The reason is because a human form of calcitonin is made by the thyroid gland, and we know that it is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue.”
From “What’s New and Beneficial About Tuna” (WHFoods.com): “Researchers have recently discovered that tuna contains the mineral selenium in an unusual form called selenoneine. This form of selenium plays an important role in the health of the fish by…protecting the fish’s red blood cells from free radical damage. Interestingly, it is also able to bind together with mercury compounds in the fish’s body (including methyl mercury, or MeHg) and lower their risk of mercury-related problems. Because there are approximately 2–3 milligrams of selenoneine in a 4-ounce serving of tuna, we are likely to get some of this same…protection when we eat tuna.”
From “8 Miraculous Benefits of Tilapia” (OrganicFacts.com): “Tilapia is a delicious, lean white fish that has a wide variety of associated health benefits, including its ability to help reduce weight, boost overall metabolism, speed up repair and growth throughout the body, build strong bones, reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, lower triglyceride levels, prevent arthritis, protect against cognitive decline, prevent various types of cancer, reduce signs of aging, boost the health of your hair, and strengthen your immune system.” (Emphasis mine.)
Later in the same article we learn: “Tilapia is highly valued as a seafood source due to its many beneficial qualities, which are attributed to its wealth of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including significant amounts of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.”
From “Nutrition and Amino Acids in Alaskan Pollock” (LiveStrong.com): “With its flaky texture and subtle flavor, Alaskan pollock makes an attractive addition to your diet. It’s low in mercury, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it provides a safer alternative to some other types of fish, including swordfish and king mackerel. Alaskan pollock also provides you with amino acids—the small chemicals that serve as building blocks for protein—as well as several other essential nutrients that contribute to its beneficial effect on your health.”
Alaskan pollock is rich in choline, vitamin B-12, phosphorous, and selenium.
Pangasius and Catfish
From SeafoodHealthFacts.org: “Pangasius [and catfish—see note below] species have a low to moderate fat content with high levels of protein. The amount and composition of the fat content will be influenced by the feed used in aquaculture operations. A nutrition label for a four-ounce raw portion of Pangasius is provided [click link above to see label]. The actual nutrient content of products that are consumed will be affected by added ingredients and the cooking method that is used.”
Personal note: Catfish and pangasius are the same nutritionally. Both belong to the catfish family. Also, I don’t recommend farmed fish. Always confirm the product is wild-caught before you buy pangasius or catfish.
From WHFoods.com: “Fish, particularly cold water fish like cod, have been shown to be very beneficial for people with atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a much lower risk of heart disease and heart attack than people who don’t consume fish. Cod, specifically, promotes cardiovascular health because it is a good source of blood-thinning omega-3 fatty acids as well as an excellent source of vitamin B12 and a good source of vitamin B6, both of which are needed to keep homocysteine levels low. This is important because homocysteine is a dangerous molecule that is directly damaging to blood vessel walls.”
From “Is Crab Meat Healthy?” (LiveStrong.com): “Crab meat is incredibly low in calories, and almost all of the calories come from protein. Blue crab meat offers just 70 calories from a 3-ounce cooked portion. If you prefer Alaska king crab, the same amount has around 80 calories, while a 3-ounce portion of Dungeness crab contains nearly 95 calories. Roughly 80 percent to 85 percent of those calories are from protein. The final percentage of calories is from fat and a small amount from carbohydrates.”
Personal note: LiveStrong.com discourages the use of butter with crab. I would argue that this is simply another message from the diet dictocrats telling us to avoid fats! Eat lots of butter! And read “Why Butter Is Better” by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig.
From “Nutritional Value of Steamed Clams” (SFGate.com): “In a 3-ounce serving, steamed clams provide 24 milligrams of iron, or 133 percent of the daily value. Iron is necessary for preventing iron-deficiency anemia, and women and young children are at risk for inadequate iron intake, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. A 3-ounce portion of clams provides 18 milligrams, or 30 percent of the daily value, of vitamin C, … [which] is commonly found in fruits and vegetables.”
Personal note on fish safety: It’s important to purchase wild-caught seafood from a reputable grocer. To make that easier, check out these resources:
Important Information About Canned Sardines and Salmon
As many of you know, research takes a good deal of time. However, I’m happy to report that I’ve found some resources I can recommend for canned sardines and canned salmon.
But first, let’s discuss the three main issues you should be cautious about when purchasing canned seafood: salt, smoked flavoring, and hydrogenated soybean oil.
- Table Salt
Many labels on canned seafood products simply state “salt” without offering any other information. Be sure to verify that your canned fish product doesn’t contain regular table salt (see personal note below). As we know, table salt has been excessively heated, has no natural minerals, and contains a free-flowing agent that can be very destructive to our health.
From “The Health Dangers of Table Salt” (GlobalHealingCenter.com) we read as follows: “Table salt is particularly hard on both the circulatory system and nervous system. It also wreaks havoc on the delicate balance of the lymph system in the body. This salt is also highly addictive, as the more the body becomes used to the high levels of fake sodium, the more it craves it.”
The products I recommend further below contain either sea salt or mined salt, and they are all listed in the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide.
Personal note: If you buy brands other than the ones I recommend below, I encourage you to contact the canner directly. Ask them to confirm in an email that their product contains either sea salt or mined salt from a natural source. That means all the minerals are intact, it hasn’t been heated, and it doesn’t contain free-flowing agents or smoked flavoring additives.
- Smoked Flavoring
We all seem to love foods that have that extra kick that comes from smoking. However, very few food companies today have the time or inclination to use a natural wood smoking process for their ingredients. When you see the words “natural flavoring,” a red flag should go up, and you should exercise caution. For this reason, the products I recommend below are confirmed to have no added artificial chemicals.
From “Smoke Flavoring May Be Toxic to Humans” (NaturalNews.com) we read: “Researchers tested 11 different flavors used as an alternative to actually smoking meat, cheese, fish, cereals, soups and spices, concluding that the use of several ‘at the intended levels is a safety concern.’ They raised particular concerns about the flavoring Primary Product AM01, which has been shown to cause changes in the rate of weight gain in young animals and changes in the blood of both juveniles and adults.”
- Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
In “Soybean Oil: One of the Most Harmful Ingredients in Processed Food,” Dr. Mercola explains: “Completely unnatural man-made fats created through the partial hydrogenation process cause dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level, and studies have linked trans-fats to health problems ranging from obesity and diabetes to reproductive problems and heart disease.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation also restricts the use of soybean oil. Take caution and avoid all canned products packed with this toxic oil.
Recommended Canned Sardines
According to the National Geographic, sardine fishing may be vanishing from the United States (sad but true). These days, most sardines come from overseas. Based on my research, here are my recommendations for canned sardines:
- Most Expensive (U.S. Source): Wild Planet Wild Sardines – Wild-caught and packed in extra virgin olive oil with sea salt. Available in most health food stores.
- Best Priced (Norway): King Oscar Wild Caught Sardines – Packed in extra virgin olive oil with mined salt. Available at Walmart and other commercial grocers.
Recommended Canned Salmon
- Deming’s Alsakan Canned Salmon (PeterPan Seafoods, Inc.) – This wonderful product is packed in water with mined salt. It’s the best-priced canned salmon I found and meets all the criteria above. Mostly available at Walmart and other commercial grocers.
A Few Starter Recipes
Personal note: I leave it to you to make sure you’re using whole food, heritage grains and organic ingredients!
—From “13 Things To Do With Canned Sardines” (Chowhound.com): Of this simple sardine dish, the staff at Chowhound states: “Try this easy and very tasty idea, adapted from The Silver Spoon, for breakfast, or pair it with a leafy salad for a quick supper.” Makes 4 servings.
1 can sardines
1 small shallot, sliced
Few sprigs parsley, chopped
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
Black pepper and salt
- Heat the oven to 500°F. Preheat an ovenproof serving dish for five minutes.
- Place sardines, shallot, parsley, and garlic in the warm dish.
- Add some black pepper and put the dish back in the oven for six minutes.
- Remove dish from the oven. Break eggs into a bowl and pour gently on top of the sardine mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
- Put dish back in the oven for 7 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but still jiggly. Remove and let it sit for 5 minutes (the eggs keep on cooking even out of the oven). Set out with toast and hot sauce or serve with salad.
—From “50 Ways to Use Canned Salmon” (WiseBread.com). Serves 2.
2 medium red potatoes, cut into pieces
1 can salmon, drained and chunked
½ small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
- Boil potatoes until tender and drain.
- While potatoes are cooling, sauté red peppers and onions until tender.
- Gently stir in potatoes and salmon. Set aside and keep warm.
- Poach or fry eggs over-easy. Divide salmon mixture on two plates and top each with an egg. Salt to taste.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.
Images from iStock/vojce (main image), GooDween123 (tuna sandwhich), JackF (woman at fish market).
whole food nutrition | whole food recipes