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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Omega-3 fatty acids are the current super power.

















By fat I do not mean physically morphing into an unhealthy mass by making a run to the donut shop every day, but to start getting the right fat many of us miss out on. Enter the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Fat might still have a bad name in some realms but the news about good fats vs. bad fats is nothing new. Mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as those in olive oil, avocado, seeds, and nuts have been found to be beneficial to overall health, as well as contributing to healthier skin and better brain function. Saturated and trans-fats are the bad guys in the fat world, increasing the risks of heart disease and contributing to cholesterol. These really should be limited by decreasing consumption of red meats and full fat dairy products. Food goods containing hydrogenated oils should be completely eliminated in lieu of more natural and clean products as many trans-fats are used as stabilizers and freshness extenders in packaged or pre made goods, many of which are also laden with sugars and artificial colors or flavors. None of that sounds very appetizing.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the current super power, so the perfect New Year’s resolution would be to get more of these into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower triglyceride levels, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and can reduce inflammation in the body. They lessen the risk of blood clots, and are now being praised for their influence on the brain. They have positive affects on mood and mental conditions, helping with depression and anxiety, and possibly slowing dementia. Influencing metabolism, aiding memory, and being vital for hormonal processing, omega-3 fatty acids also decrease your stress levels by keeping cortisol and adrenaline from spiking. Omega-3 can actually help your sex life as well, with research noting that omega-3 increases dopamine, the body’s main pleasure transmitter.

The best sources of omega-3s come from fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines (or kippers,) mackerel, trout, and even in other fish such as herring, bluefin tuna, and anchovies to name a few. Other sources include walnuts and flaxseeds. Algae sources work too, but are mainly seen in vegan omega-3 supplements. Be aware some fish contains high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other environmental pollutants. Some are also over-fished with regards to the sustainability of our edible sea life. I encourage you to visit www.oceansalive.org for information on these issues so you can make educated decisions on which fish to purchase and consume.

Aim to have fatty fish twice a week. Add walnuts to breakfast cereals, with snacks, on top of salads, or ground and crusted on chicken. Flax meal is easily sprinkled on yogurt, and blended into smoothies. Here is a delicious and simple fish dish to get you started. It also includes dark leafy green kale, another super food full of vitamins, antioxidants, iron, and vitamin K. Finish this meal by warming a bag of unsweetened frozen organic cherries in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a squeeze of lemon, then serving it over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with a thin slice of pound cake. A super nutritious meal that helps you get the right kind of fat.

Simple Roast Salmon over Kale with Anchovy Butter

serves 4

Butter:

6 - 8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination you enjoy, such as parsley, chives,etc.)

3 salt packed anchovy fillets, chopped

1 small minced garlic clove

sea salt and fresh pepper.

Smash the anchovies and blend all ingredients to a smooth, consistent paste. Set aside, or this can be made and refrigerated up to a week in advance. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Salmon and Kale:

1 generous pound of WILD salmon, pin bones removed if needed, skin on, cut into 4 to 6 once fillets

2 bunches of curly or lacinado kale, washed and larger ribs removed OR pre-washed and trimmed kale from the produce section, chopped into about inch wide pieces

drizzle of olive oil

sea salt and fresh pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Start the kale by heating the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid. Add the kale, and a about ¼ of a cup water, broth, and some white wine if you wish. Cover and cook until kale is tender, about 6 to10 minutes. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, oil a baking sheet or piece of parchment paper. Leaving the skin on the fish, season the salmon and place it skin side down on the sheet.

Bake until barely set in the center, about 7 to 12 minutes depending on your oven and preference. (I am sold on 7 minutes for the soft melting texture I adore.)

Plate the kale and top with a salmon fillet. Dot the fillets with the butter, letting some melt into the kale as well. Pass extra butter around allowing others to go nuts if they really want to.

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