Heart Healthy Seafood

If you're fishing for something that's good for the heart physically and emotionally, you may want to look at the value of fish.

Besides being economical and easy to prepare, fish and seafood are easy to digest, low in sodium and high in protein, and contain far fewer calories and less fat than comparable servings of red meats. Fish truly is lean cuisine!

Recent medical studies indicate that a meal or two of fish each week may also help reduce blood cholesterol levels, a leading cause of atherosclerosis, commonly called hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a major factor in the development of coronary heart disease, America's biggest killer disease.

Low in Calories
    Fish offers high-quality protein with fewer calories than a similar-sized portion of meat. For example, both haddock and ground beef are about 18% protein. But the haddock will have only about 22 calories per ounce, while regular ground beef has about 80 calories per ounce.

    The total number of calories in a seafood meal depends on your choice of seafood and your method of preparing it. A 3.5-ounce serving of perch, for example, has far fewer calories than an equivalent serving of Chinook salmon or sturgeon caviar. Also, frying will add more calories to a serving of fish than will broiling, poaching or steaming it. That beer-battered fish fry isn't going to be as low-cal as the same serving of fish that's been broiled.

    Condiments can easily add a lot of calories to your meal if you're not careful. Try to replace traditional accompaniments like butter and tartar sauce with just a few fresh herbs--such as sweet basil, curry powder or paprika--or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the delicate flavors of fish or seafood.

    Fish and fish oils have been gaining acclaim in recent scientific studies that have shown they have many benefits to human nutrition and general health. As a result, doctors and nutritionists nationwide are beginning to recommend more fish and seafood in the diets of their patients. While many aspects of fish and nutrition are still under investigation, much of the current research effort is focused on the various kinds of lipids in fish, particularly the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are unique to fish and fish oils. Trout and salmon in particular are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

    Recent research indicates a diet containing fish or fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids has beneficial effects on such health problems as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), high levels of cholesterol (blood lipids) and high blood pressure (hypertension), and perhaps even arthritis.

    Atherosclerosis, hypertension and obesity are the three major diet-related factors involved in an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, the cause of nearly half of all deaths in the United States today. On average, one in five Americans has a problem with atherosclerosis or high blood lipids. A diet generally high in fat content seems to increase blood cholesterol, and a diet high in saturated fats increases blood cholesterol in some people. Seafood is generally low in cholesterol and fats, and 60 to 80% of the fat in seafood consists of polyunsaturated fatty acids, like those in vegetable oils.

    More than 60 million Americans suffer from hypertension, and restriction of the amount of sodium in the diet is often part of the treatment for it. Another important aspect of the dietary management of hypertensive patients is maintaining their potassium levels when certain diuretics are part of the treatment. Freshwater and saltwater species of fish alike are both low in sodium and good sources of potassium. However, be aware that the use of brine in processing pickled, smoked and some frozen fish and seafood products can increase the sodium content more than threefold: Read your package labels carefully.

    Lemon and lime juice are good substitutes for salt in seafood dishes, and tarragon, basil, paprika, garlic, mushrooms and onions all enhance the flavor of seafood dishes without raising the sodium or caloric content significantly.

    Besides tasting good and being good for you, fish and seafood have two other special attractions as home menu items: They are quick and easy to prepare.

    Generally speaking, any method used to prepare meat dishes can also be used with seafood, including baking, broiling, grilling and frying. Unlike many meats, however, fish and other seafood do not require a lot of cooking to make them tender. Fish steaks and small whole fish can be broiled, steamed, poached or fried in only a few minutes.

    And while fish and seafood generally cost more per pound than red meats, there is little or no bone and fat to trim away and less shrinkage during cooking, so less is wasted.

Practical Tips
    Never buy fish with a strong odor ­ fish should have a fresh, mild, sea-breeze scent. Choose fish with moist flesh and translucent skin. Fish should have clear eyes and bright, unblemished skin.

    Refrigerate your seafood purchases as quickly as possible. Fish may be safely kept at a temperature below 40 degrees and cooked to temperatures above 140 degrees. Store fresh fish in its original wrapper in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If seafood will not be used within one to two days of purchase, wrap the fish (still in its original container) in plastic wrap and freeze it. For best quality, use frozen seafood within 3­6 months.

    When preparing fish and seafood, wash your hands well and often. Always use clean utensils and preparation areas and never mix raw seafood and its contact surfaces with cooked food. When cooking fish, use the 10-minute rule: cook fish for 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

The recipes included in this article cover a wide range of flavors, preparation techniques, and types of seafood. Here's our special seafood menu:

And now, let's go fishing! Here's to a healthy heart.

Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1 1/2 T. smooth peanut butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 T. honey
  • 2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 T. green onion -- minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 c. steamed rice -- optional

Wash prawns, peel, and devein. Place in a large saucepan with wine. Cook over medium-high heat until they turn bright pink. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together peanut butter and safflower oil until smooth. Add honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, cayenne, green onion, coriander, and cumin. Mix well, then add prawns. Place prawns and sauce in saucepan and reheat. Serve over steamed rice (if desired).

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Fish Stew

  • 16 oz. frozen haddock fillets
  • 2 potatoes -- peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots -- finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley -- snipped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil -- crushed
  • 16 oz. canned tomatoes -- chopped, undrained
  • 14 1/2 oz. nonfat chicken broth
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c. sherry
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Let the fish stand at room temperature while you are preparing the other ingredients. In a crock pot, combine the potatoes, carrots, parsley, bay leaf, tapioca, sugar, salt, basil, and pepper. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato sauce, and sherry.

Halve the frozen block of fish crosswise; place the halves in the cooker. Cover and cook on a low heat setting for 10-12 hours or on a high heat setting for 3-4 hours. Remove the bay leaf. Break the fish into bite size chunks with a fork.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus cooking time

Grilled Salmon with Potato and Watercress Salad

  • 3 lbs. small red potatoes
  • 1 c. red onion -- thinly sliced
  • 1 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 lb. watercress -- rinsed
  • 2 lbs. salmon fillet
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. brown sugar -- firmly packed
  • 2 c. mesquite wood chips -- soaked in water (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a 6-quart pan, bring about 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat; add the potatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes. Drain and chill.

Soak the onions about 15 minutes in cold water. Drain the onions and mix them with rice vinegar. Cut the potatoes in quarters and add them to the onions.

Trim the watercress sprigs from the stems, then finely chop enough of the stems to make 1/2 cup (discard the extras or save them for other uses). Mix the chopped stems on a large oval platter with the potato salad alongside. Cover the mixture and keep cool.

Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Place the salmon, skin side down, on a piece of heavy foil. Cut the foil to follow outlines of the fish, leaving a 1-inch border.

Crimp the edges of foil to fit up against the edge of the fish. Mix the soy sauce with the brown sugar and brush onto the salmon fillet.

Prepare the grill and add soaked wood chips for extra flavor. Lay the fish on the center of the grill. Cover and cook until the fish is barely opaque in the thickest part (cut to test), about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the fish to a platter with the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Orange Roughy Under Orange Sauce

  • 1 lb. orange roughy fillets
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. flour
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • dash of nutmeg

Cut the orange roughy into 4 portions. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the flour, stirring well until blended. Mix in the remaining ingredients, stirring over low heat until thickened.

Broil the orange roughy 4" from the heat source until it flakes when tested with a fork. Pour the orange sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes