Best catch — for your heartFish, seafood can play role in cardiovascular health.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that some foods that weren’t so appealing to me in my younger years now are among my favorites.
For example, I never liked peas when I was a kid. I particularly remember pushing them off to the side of my plate when we had a casserole. (The same was true of lima beans, which were in Campbell’s vegetable soup, an ingredient in my mom’s hot dish.) And I especially despised creamed peas. Now, I will devour anything creamed, peas included.
Another dish I couldn’t stand was scalloped potatoes and ham. It didn’t matter whether it was at school lunch or at home. The sight and the smell of it made me gag. Likewise today, it’s a completely different story. I would eat scalloped potatoes and ham in a heartbeat.
That brings me to fish and seafood, which always have rated near the top of my culinary list of favorites. They also are recommended highly by the American Heart Association as part of a heart-healthy diet. (The AHA says Americans should aim for at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week (preferably oily fish). And the Mayo Clinic lists substituting fish as a good alternative to high-fat meats among its seven steps to prevent heart disease. (The others are limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol, eat more fruits and vegetables, select whole grains, reduce the salt in your food, practice moderation and plan ahead.)
Growing up, I liked just about any kind of fish, and we had a variety. Of course, walleye was a real treat, but we rarely had it since my dad didn’t do much fishing. Occasionally, my Uncle George would give Dad a few fresh walleye or northern fillets. Sometimes, he’d even pass along some smoked fish.
My dad also was a big fan of canned fish, such as sardines and kipper snacks, so I developed a taste for them, as well as the pickled herring he would pick up at Erickson’s Meat Market. I remember they used to have a big, wooden barrel in which the herring was kept.
And during Lent, we would have canned salmon and tuna a number of different ways.
As it turns out, much of that seafood and fish that I enjoyed while growing up were the type that are heart-healthy because they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides and may reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. (The highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring.
If you’re not a fish or seafood connoisseur, this would be a good time to start, since it is American Heart Month, observed since 1963. Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attacks, are our nation’s No. 1 killer.
I still enjoy many of the same types of fish and seafood, although the salmon we eat often is fresh. Most recently, we enjoyed some Lake Michigan salmon, courtesy of Pat Healey, who each summer heads to the second-largest of the Great Lakes for some deep-water fishing.
I also love scallops, which are a very good source of an important nutrient for cardiovascular health, vitamin B12. In addition, scallops are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and potassium, three other nutrients that provide significant benefits for the cardiovascular system.
That’s a catch any angler would welcome.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.