While the phrase "fatty fish" doesn't sound particularly appetizing or healthy, nothing could be further from the truth. Several fish varieties are great sources for the essential omega-3 fatty acids found only in food or supplements. Granted, there are several plant-based sources for one type of omega-3, including walnuts and canola oil. But this type, referred to as ALA, is not as easily accessed nutritionally by our bodies, said Kathleen Cowden, a registered dietitian at Franciscan Health.
The omega-3 in fish (the EPA and DHA types) is more ideal for human diets. Great sources include salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and some white fish like tilapia, cod and flounder. "As long as you don't have a seafood allergy, fish sources of omega-3s have a greater impact in reducing inflammation, heart disease as well as improving brain development in newborns," said Cowden.
Ongoing research also suggests omega-3 fatty acids can help control Alzheimer's disease, dementia, eye disease, and even depression, she added.
Though available in pill form, getting omega-3 fatty acids from food is recommended.
"Your most economical choice is to take portions home to cook, and it's really much easier - and less smelly - to prepare than most people think," said Cowden. For instance, cut a salmon fillet into servings about an inch wide, brush with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. French or brown mustard also is a great way to add flavor to salmon while it cooks. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes. Slow-roasting in a 250-degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes also takes a lot of guesswork and mess out of preparing fish.
"Another great source of omega-3s people overlook is canned sardines on the grocery shelf," said Cowden. "If you like canned tuna, you probably will enjoy sardines." Sardines can be easily added to scrambled eggs or pasta sauce, for instance. Look for the cans labeled "skinless and boneless" she suggests adding that the skin and bones are edible and are a good source of calcium.
Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Thyme
- 4 salmon fillets, about 4 ounces each
- 1 tablespoon grainy or Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot or onion
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon slices for serving
Heat broiler and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, mix together mustard, garlic, shallot, thyme, rosemary, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Spread mixture all over salmon fillets and broil, 7 to 8 minutes. Garnish with more thyme and lemon slices and serve. Note: You can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme for fresh.
Baked Salmon With Honey Mustard Sauce
- Four 6- to 7-ounce salmon fillets, skin-on
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, plus additional for garnish
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a large baking sheet or shallow baking pan with aluminum foil and lay the salmon, skin side down, on top. Set aside. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, honey and chives in a medium bowl. Brush the sauce over the fish, spreading it evenly all over the top and sides of each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast just until the fish is opaque in the center, 15-20 minutes.
Sardine Marinara Sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, crushed
- 1 to 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Two or three sardine fillets
Prepare and serve with spaghetti or linguine. Heat a large saute pan on medium. When hot, add the oil. Add onions, cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes - do not let onions or garlic brown, as this will make the sauce bitter. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper flakes and lower the heat and allow to simmer 15 or 20 minutes, uncovered. Adjust seasonings toward the end of cooking. Break up sardines with a fork and add them to the sauce and warm briefly before adding to your cooked pasta. Note: You can also buy your favorite prepared pasta sauce and add your sardines while warming it up in a saucepan.
Buy skinless and boneless sardines packed in olive oil for these treats. Prepare one of these spreads and spoon it on sturdy toast triangles.
Finely chop black olives and capers. Add olive oil and mashed sardines. Add lemon juice or dried thyme for extra flavor.
Mash together the sardines and olive oil from the can. Spoon onto toast and sprinkle on salt and pepper. Drizzle some good balsamic vinegar on top and enjoy!
By Jennifer Hawke