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Posts from the ‘Did You Know’ Category

Sustainable Seafood

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Eating sustainable seafood is (and has) been gaining in popularity over the past few years as more people have taken an interest in how their food gets to their plate and the potential harm to the environment. There is no absolute answer to the question “Is wild better than farmed?”.  It depends on both the fishing and the farming practices.

One of the most common fishing methods in the US is trawling.  In this practice large nets are towed behind boats to catch fish or shellfish. They can be dragged in the middle of the water or along the sea floor, with the latter resulting in large levels of bycatch (most of which don’t survive, even if they’re tossed back). The second most popular method is purse seining, which catches large schools of fish all at once. One of the best fishing practices is pole/troll, which uses a traditional pole and bait method to catch fish one at a time.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a complete list of fishing and fish farming methods along with their levels of popularity.

The Environmental Defense Fund also has a good article about fish farming and which practices are most harmful.  Some of the biggest problems are polluting surrounding waters, depleting wild fish to feed farmed fish (and getting fewer farmed fish in return) and possibly introducing new risks to wild fish if the farmed fish escape.

How can you help protect fish stocks from being depleted?  Simply look at the lists put together by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute to see which fish are sustainable and which aren’t.  Blue Ocean also notes fish high in mercury.  Both sites have wallet size brochures for fish and shellfish and a separate card for sushi. Seafood Watch, part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, also has a free iphone app.  The easiest way for you to impact which fish are caught, and how, is to decide what you want you want to spend your money on.  Without demand, there won’t be a supply.

Mercury in Fish

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Mercury is a hot topic these days as questions abound as to which fish are safe to eat and how much fish and shellfish a person can safely consume each week.  Mercury is odorless, tasteless, invisible and dangerous.  It is also found primarily in the meat of the fish and cannot be removed by removing the skin or other parts.

A general rule of thumb is that the larger the fish, the more mercury it will contain.  Some of the fish with the highest mercury levels are Swordfish, Tilefish, Shark, King Mackerel, Chilean Seabass, Orange Roughy, Farmed Atlantic Salmon and Albacore Tuna.  Wild Salmon, Pollock, Catfish, Tilapia, Sole, Trout, Crab and Shrimp are on the lower end of the mercury spectrum.  Chunk Light Tuna, Striped Bass, Skate, Halibut and Cod fall somewhere in the middle.  For a longer and more complete list check out the NRDC website.  FDA guidelines state that pregnant women can safely consume up to 12 oz of fish per week, but that does not include fish on the “high in mercury” list.

The good news is that there are a number of online tools to help you estimate how much mercury you’re consuming from fish.  This tuna calculator is a handy tool from the Environmental Working Group to help determine how much albacore and chunk light tuna is safe to consume each week (assuming you don’t eat any other seafood).  NRDC has a mercury calculator, which uses a more comprehensive list of fish and calculates your intake from the past week based on serving size.  They also have a list for sushi lovers.  High levels of mercury in the body can cause serious neurological problems. While pregnant women and children are most at risk for mercury poisoning, staying informed is the best way to protect your health at any age.

Herbs & Spices: Cinnamon

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Everyone knows it, and everyone I know loves it.  In ancient Egypt it was considered more valuable than gold, and today cinnamon evokes thoughts of warm, comforting meals.  It’s no coincidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine promotes using cinnamon to warm the body when faced with a cold.

Cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree and there are two types: Cassia, the Chinese version, and Ceylon, which is a little sweeter.  Both are sold as cinnamon, but may be labeled separately in a specialty store.  Many of cinnamon’s health benefits are attributed to its essential oils, but there are some nutrients too.  2 teaspoons of cinnamon contain 35% of the daily value of manganese (an enzyme activator that helps your body utilize nutrients) and 10% of fiber and iron.  It also contains some calcium and antioxidants.  While the stick version may stay fresh longer, both the ground and stick versions contain the same nutrients.  As long as your cinnamon smells sweet before you use it you know it’s still fresh.

Some studies have shown that cinnamon helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.  In a study using rice pudding, it was concluded that the cinnamon delayed stomach emptying and reduced blood sugar levels. Further studies are being done to replicate these findings and determine if cinnamon helps our bodies utilize insulin more effectively.

If you need yet another great reason to add this delicious spice to your meals, research has also shown that the smell of cinnamon is energizing.  Using cinnamon as part of spice rubs for meat and poultry gives an incredible depth of flavor to the dish.

Try these easy ideas to incorporate cinnamon into your daily repertoire:

Add to oatmeal, cereal or pancake batter

Stir into plain yogurt

Use it to flavor sweet potatoes, acorn squash or carrots

Stir 1/2 -1 teaspoon into your coffee, latte or hot chocolate

Use a dash or two in your favorite smoothie


Fish Tagine with Tomatoes, Capers and Cinnamon

Lamb and Mint Meatballs with Farro Risotto and Cilantro Pesto

Banana-Cinnamon Waffles

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Did You Know…Cauliflower

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Quick, think of your top 5 vegetables.  Ok, now think of your top 10.  Was cauliflower on either list?  My guess is that for most people, cauliflower doesn’t make the cut, and it’s time to give it another chance.  Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.  This family is known to contain cancer fighting compounds and studies have shown that eating a few cups of these vegetables per week may reduce the risk of certain cancers.  Just one cup of cauliflower also has 90% of your vitamin C needs for the day as well as vitamin K, folate and fiber.  It also comes in different colors – white, green, orange and even purple!  Perfect for getting kids to try it.

Cooking cauliflower brings out its sweet, slightly nutty flavor.  Try one of these recipes with (or for) your next dinner:

  • Roasted – Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 425 until the edges are brown.  Taste a piece and leave in longer if desired.  Feel free to sprinkle a little parmesan cheese or your favorite herbs on top too.
  • Mashed – For an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes check out this recipe for mashed cauliflower with green onions.
  • Puree – Another alternative to mashed potatoes – cauliflower puree. Substitute olive or canola oil instead of butter for a healthier option.
  • Country Captain – this recipe is packed full of healthy spices and vegetables.

As a main dish or a side dish, it’s time to add a cauliflower recipe to your repertoire!

Did you know…Quinoa

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Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) isn’t a new “grain”, but it seems to go through spurts of popularity, and this is one of those times.  Technically a seed, quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids, similar to meat.  This makes it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans trying to increase their protein intake.  It is especially high in the amino acid lysine, which helps with tissue growth and repair.

Other nutrients include:

  • Magnesium – Helps relax muscles and blood vessels
  • Iron – An important part of proteins and red blood cells
  • Manganese and Copper – These act as antioxidants to help protect your cells from damage
  • Calcium and Phosphorus – Both are important to build strong bones
  • Fiber – Quinoa contains soluble and insoluble fiber

With a fluffy texture and a slightly nutty flavor, quinoa is a versatile addition to any meal.  Consider topping plain quinoa with sauteed vegetables, adding it to soups or salads, or mixing it with vegetables as a side dish.  Check out Closet Cooking for a some delicious quinoa recipes!