Four simple ways to start loving this ultimate superfood…
We all know that fish is a great source of lean protein and loaded with heart- and brain-healthy nutrients.
It gets even better: People who have the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids—which fatty fish, unlike plant sources, provides in a form that is immediately absorbed by the body—live an average of two years longer than those with lower levels, according to a recent study of 2,700 adults in the US. (The omega-3s in fish are better absorbed than those in fish oil supplements.)
But if you can’t stand the taste or even smell of fish, do you have to forgo these health benefits? Absolutely not. Here’s how to turn a fish hater into a fish lover…
STEP 1: UNRAVEL THE AVERSION
You may have told yourself that you don’t like fish simply because of a bad experience or two. Perhaps you ate a certain type that tasted or smelled too strong…you got sick after eating fish…you didn’t like the way it was prepared…or maybe because you even swallowed a few bones!
There is a solution for each of these common scenarios. If taste is your primary complaint, it’s important to realize that fish usually should not taste fishy. If it does, it may be fresh. Most fish should taste briny or, if it’s a mild, white fish, almost flavorless. Similarly, fish should not smell fishy. Instead, it should have a briny odor—like the ocean.
If you don’t like that briny smell, there’s a simple solution: Squeeze one whole lemon over your fish before cooking. The acid in the lemon neutralizes the odor. It shouldn’t impart much lemon flavor, since most of the lemon evaporates during cooking.
With the large variety of fish on the market, you may discover that you do like some types of fish. Salmon is a great entry point—it has a mild flavor and meaty texture. Plus, it’s a rich source of omega-3s and hard-to-get vitamin D.
There’s really no wrong way to cook fish from a taste standpoint. Baking, grilling, sautéing, poaching, broiling or even pan-searing all bring out the natural flavor in fish. (But sorry, you should avoid eating fried fish even if that’s the only way you like it—frying adds too many calories and fat.)
For variety, try other types of fish such as tuna, a meatier fish that’s great for sandwiches and casseroles (chunk light contains less mercury than albacore)…tilapia, a mild, white-fleshed fish great for baked fish sticks and fish tacos (it’s lower in fat and calories than meat and poultry)…and turbot, a delicate, white-fleshed fish popular in French and Asian cuisines.
Worried about bones? At the fish counter, ask for a fillet rather than a steak, which is much more likely to have bones in it.
STEP 2: EXPLORE ACCENT FLAVORS
If you want to get hooked on fish, choosing tasty accents is key. The mild fish described above, such as tilapia and turbot, as well as Pacific cod and sole, have a delicate porous texture, which makes them perfect for soaking up flavors from sauces, fruit, herbs and spices. Delicious options…
Sauté a mild fillet in olive oil and white wine. Add a little garlic and a dash of herbs, such as rosemary, mint and/or thyme.
Top baked fish with mango salsa. Serve over pasta or steamed rice. For variety, you can also top the fish with caponata (a relish of chopped eggplant, celery, olives, tomatoes and capers) or a light lemon sauce.
STEP 3: BEEF AND CHICKEN ALTERNATIVE
A great way to add fish to your diet is to use it as a substitute for chicken or beef in some of your favorite dishes. For example, you can tuck a piece of seared salmon or meaty mahi mahi inside a whole-grain hamburger bun for a virtuous sandwich with the feel of a burger. Or make fish croquettes with bread crumbs, an egg and olive oil.
Another tasty option: Toss pasta with pan-seared sea scallops, which contain zinc, iron and omega-3s. To sear scallops: Heat a tablespoon of olive or grapeseed oil, add scallops and cook for about three minutes on each side. Top with your favorite tomato sauce or pesto.
Barramundi, a flaky, white fish that’s packed with omega-3s, is a great choice for fish tacos. You can often buy it frozen in your supermarket and keep it in the freezer for a speedy weeknight meal.
Fast fish taco recipe: Sauté Barramundi (or the fish of your choice) in a little olive oil, and serve it in a warm corn tortilla with avocado, tomatillo salsa and a squirt of lime.
STEP 4: GET THE BEST FISH
Fish spoils quickly, so I recommend that you cook and eat refrigerated fish the day you buy it. You can find good fish at grocery stores and fish markets. Even though frozen fish is convenient, freezing may impact the flavor and texture.
Tip: Whenever you can, opt for wild fish. It usually contains more omega-3s than farmed varieties.
Also, stay away from fish that may harbor significant levels of toxins such as mercury. These include swordfish, albacore tuna, tilefish, king mackerel, orange roughy, shark and Chilean sea bass. For more on choosing safe fish, consult the Environmental Protection Agency Web site.
IF YOU’RE ALLERGIC…
Fatty fish are among the best sources of omega-3s, but you can consider these alternatives if you’re allergic to fish…
Walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Aim for 1 g to 2 g of ALAs a day. To meet that goal…
- Walnuts—One ounce (about a handful) provides 2.5 g.
- Ground flaxseed—One tablespoon provides 2.2 g. Try as a topping for yogurt.
- Canola oil—One tablespoon provides 1.3 g. Mix with a little lemon juice and put on your salad.