Thursday, August 25, 2011

Easy ways to add fresh fish and seafood to your diet

Easy ways to add fresh fish and seafood to your diet
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Adding fresh fish and seafood to your diet can jazz up your regular repertoire of weekday meals and provide you with low-fat, nutrient-rich, lean protein that tastes great. When you think about the inherent health risks of consuming meats and poultry laden with antibiotics, growth hormones and saturated fats, switching to a natural protein source like fish and seafood, with healthy essential fatty acids, is a no-brainer for health.

You may have kept away from seafood for several reasons. Maybe you don’t really know how to prepare it, or you don’t know what to buy. Or maybe you tried a really “fishy” (oily) fish when you were young and you never gave it a second chance. Whatever your reason, these easy tips and techniques will help to put it back on your menu.

Why is fresh fish and seafood healthy?

“Healthy” can mean different things to different people. But we can all agree that excessive fat, growth hormones and antibiotics are not healthy to eat. Most fresh fish and seafood just happen to be organic. It lived a natural life in a lake or ocean before it was caught, and ate a natural diet. Most seafood is free of growth hormones, drugs, and antibiotics. Fish is also high in protein which is easily digestible, so your body can make the most out of it. Some fish, like Salmon, even have healthy oils (omegas) that your body needs.

Yes, there are some farmed fish that are given growth hormones (Basa and Tilapia) and are fed synthetic fish food. Some are given food coloring in their feed to color their flesh (as in farmed Salmon). But the majority of fish and seafood out there is quite natural and free of unhealthy additives. At the end of the day I would rather eat a farmed salmon fillet, than a chemical-laden beef steak or chicken breast.

Easy ways to prepare fresh fish and seafood.

Some people may be intimidated by seafood simply because they have no idea how to prepare it. They probably don’t realize that fish cooks very fast and is actually a lot easier to cook than land animal protein. The basic rule of thumb with fish is: When the flesh flakes apart easily, it’s done. Shrimp are fully cooked about a minute or two after they change color to red or pink. Scallops cook quite quickly and can be eaten medium rare. In most cases, your fish monger can steam crab and lobster for you, or you can find it pre-cooked (when the shells are red) in your local grocery store. Start by adding fish or seafood to your diet once a week and work your way up as you become more comfortable with it.

The easiest way to prepare a nice fish fillet is to put it into a baking dish or cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil, sprinkle with fresh minced garlic, sea salt, pepper and butter or olive oil. Bake in the oven until fish flakes apart easily and serve with your favorite side dishes. You can also cook your fish in a non-stick skillet with the same ingredients I mentioned above. You can add different variations to change it up as you become more comfortable - soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chopped scallions, for example. Or you can take a whole fish, wrap it completely in foil with onions, olive oil, salt, garlic, and herbs and grill it in your BBQ until the flesh comes off the bone easily. Experiment, and have fun!

Shrimp can be sauteed in a non-stick pan with butter (or olive oil), salt, pepper and a pinch of curry powder, or Cajun spice for a few minutes. Cooking them on a skillet with white wine, salt, garlic and butter (or olive oil), and sliced mushrooms is also a great way to enjoy shrimp. They don’t take very long to cook. You can also add shrimp, crab meat, and scallop to fresh tomato sauce, or cream sauce for a great pasta dish.

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