Food of the Week: Salmon

salmon2

It was harder than it should have been to find a picture of cooked salmon.

Salmon gets the spotlight this week because I’m making it for dinner tonight using this incredible recipe. I actually bought fresh salmon from the store, from the actual seafood section! This is a pleasant change from my usual salmon-in-a-can, also known as “fish taste in your mouth that lasts at least 24 hours”… in-a-can. I like canned salmon, but wow does it linger. Also, cats eat it, and that makes me feel weird.

Anyway, here’s my ode to salmon.

Introduction

Salmon is a pretty popular food. Part of the reason is because it’s pinky-orange flesh is a little bit impossible to resist, even when it’s uncooked (people eat that shiz raw). The color comes from carotenoid pigments, which I discussed in last week’s informative and controversial avocado entry.

You can typically find salmon swimming near the coasts of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and in the Great Lakes of North America. Salmon have a busy life. They start out their lives in fresh water and migrate to the ocean. Then, they come back to fresh water to have little fish babies.

The word “salmon” comes from the Latin word Salmo, which probably comes from the word Salire (“to leap”). If you’ve ever seen footage of salmon swimming through a stream, you understand why. Those buggers leap a lot. They’re like obsessed with leaping.

The Salmo genus comes from the north Atlantic while the other genus Oncorhynchus comes from the north Pacific. But that isn’t really interesting. What’s interesting about salmon is how delicious they are in my mouth, and how good they are for us.

Nutrition

Salmon is an awesome source of omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s a stellar food choice for anyone who wants their heart to work well. I know I do. Seeing as heart disease has been the #1 killer of Americans for like a bajillion years (OK, 80 years), it may be a good idea to start eating things that will help our hearts be healthier. We can’t live forever, but at least we can delay the inevitable, eh?

As discussed last week, omega-3 fatty acids also provide a crap load of other benefits. It sharpens the mind, eases depression, reduces stiffness and joint pain, and improves lung function.

Salmon also contains a healthy load of B Vitamins, including B2, B3, B6 and B12.

  • B2 and B3 vitamins help your body convert your food into energy. I myself noticed a dramatic difference in my energy level when I started upping my daily salmon dose.
  • B6 helps you maintain a healthy brain function, so in combination with omega-3, you really have no excuse to be stupid. Vitamin B6 also helps your body with disease prevention, red blood cell production, breaking down protein and normal nerve cell function.
  • B12 supports the health of your immune system, promotes red blood cell production, and keeps you in a jolly mood. B12 is only found in animal sources like fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, so those who do not eat animal products have to get it some other way. I go to the clinic every month for a B12 shot, because for some reason I suck at swallowing pills. Plus, the shot usually doesn’t hurt too badly and it’s a quick way to get it into my system. It makes me feel like a rock star, but that could be a placebo effect. Eh, who cares. I’m a freaking rock star.

The Vitamin A that salmon provides helps optimize your immune system by strengthening your mucous membranes, the linings of your eyes, and your respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. By strengthening these entry points, your body is better equipped to fight off some of the worst “kill-me” illnesses, such as stomach bugs, the flu, and urinary tract infections. Vitamin A is also important for healthy eyes, strong bones and teeth, cancer prevention, and healthy skin.

"Raaaaaawwwwrrrrr!"

This is Kyle. I broke the “don’t name your salmon” rule. He’s now in my tub.

As if there weren’t enough vitamins already, salmon just has to show off by also giving us Vitamin D, which is best known for its relationship with the sun. Direct contact with sunlight promotes Vitamin D synthesis in our skin, which is actually the best way to get the vitamin. But when you can’t do that, especially in the winter months, the second best way is by eating things. Things like salmon. Vitamin D is known for its ability to promote the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Without enough Vitamin D, bones can become thin, weak, or misshapen. The sunshine vitamin also promotes cell growth, healthy immune function, and reduction of inflammation in the body.

So, what’s next? Another vitamin? Oh yes indeed. Vitamin E is yet another gift brought to you by the leaping pink fish. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that has a long list of benefits, the main one probably being protection against roaming free radicals. Vitamin E attacks them before they get a chance to damage our cells and give us cancer. Vitamin E also protects us against toxins that are in the environment and in our every day products (too many for comfort). Yep, vitamins can really do this stuff. I’m not just picking random letters from the alphabet and saying a bunch of nice things.

Some minerals that can be found in salmon include iron (cell growth), magnesium (energy, headache prevention), zinc (immunity and healing), calcium and phosphorus (strong bones).

The last nutritional benefit of salmon that I feel like talking about right now is protein. One serving of Alaskan salmon can contain 23 grams to 27 grams of protein. Salmon contains complete proteins that contain a butt-load of amino acids. These proteins can help you grow some sick muscles, increase your metabolism, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Like a boss.

Choosing

You can buy salmon whole, as a steak, or as a filet. What you choose depends on how many people you are feeding and how much you feel like doing. If you’re like me, you don’t feel like doing a lot and would rather buy a bunch of steaks. But if you want to save some money, and have better work ethic than I do, you could buy the whole fish. Just be prepared to de-bone and un-skin the thing, which doesn’t sound like fun. Really, I would just shell out the extra cash.

This is a morbid photo of a salmon cut in half. It kind of makes me sad.

This is a morbid picture of a salmon cut in half. It kind of makes me sad.

When you’re at the seafood counter, ask the handler if you can smell the fish. This part sounds odd but it’s really important that your fish doesn’t smell like roadkill laced with poo. It should smell salty, sweet, and not like a fish. If it smells like fish, it’s bad fish. If the handler looks at you funny, give him a little sniff too.

If there’s a thermometer in the refrigerator case somewhere, check it out. It should be at 29 degrees F. Select fish that’s directly on top of the ice because it’s more likely to have been kept at a safe temperature.

The flesh should be firm and intact, not feathered. If you press on it, it should push back a little. And this should probably go without saying, but the salmon shouldn’t be slimy, and the scales shouldn’t be falling off.

If you look into the salmon’s eyes and it winks at you, put it back. Just put it back.

And finally, I would advise that you do not give your fish a name.

Storing, Handling and Preparation

There are lots of different types of salmon, but I don’t feel like talking about all of them. What they all have in common though is that they can make you welcome death if you do anything seriously wrong in the storing and handling area.

When you leave the store, get home as soon as possible without breaking any major traffic laws. I’d say take no longer than 30 minutes. Fish goes bad quickly at unsafe temperatures (anywhere between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F). Put the fish in your refrigerator (which should be 40 degrees F at the warmest) as soon as you get home. Use the salmon within one day. If you don’t, throw it in the freezer instead where it will stay good for up to 6 months.

The best way to defrost frozen salmon is to put it in your refrigerator 24-30 hours prior to making dinner. Do not set it on a counter to thaw or run warm water over it to speed up the process. You’re basically creating a bacterial utopia that way. Once thawed, smell it again. Sorry, I have this weird thing with smelling fish.

Whether you grill, fry, or bake the salmon, make sure it reaches the safe temperature of 140 degrees F. You’ll usually know it’s done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork. See one of the recipes below for some ideas on how to prepare your salmon.

Raw vs. Cooked

salmonEating any raw flesh just sounds like a bad idea to me, but there are tons of B.A. people who do it every day in the form of sushi, sashimi, crudo and salmon tartare and walk away from it parasite-free. To “safely” eat raw salmon, the fish must be frozen at -31 degrees F or lower for 15 hours. If it’s not, you’re at risk of having a new, wriggly little guest in your digestive system called Diphyllobothrium latum.

I really don’t want to ruin sushi for anyone, but I just think you should know that there are risks in eating raw fish. I’d like to think most reputable places store and prepare their fish properly, but I’m still not really tempted to try it.

Recipes

Alright well now that I’m sick of salmon, vitamins and tapeworms, here are some recipes to wrap this entry up with. The recipe I made tonight was tha bomb.

Salmon with Brown Sugar and Bourbon GlazeAll Recipes

Salmon Chowder – Heather Christo Cooks

BLT Salmon – lemons for lulu

Salmon and Asparagus Frattata – epicurious

Salmon with Mango Salsa – Martha Stewart

Oregon Salmon Patties – All Recipes

Sources

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=salmon
http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-nutrition-of-salmon.html#b
http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scan/out81_en.pdf
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5606a2.htm
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet
http://www.livestrong.com/article/330065-alaskan-salmon-nutrition
http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/benefits-of-b6-vitamin/2011/02/10/id/385671
http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/7-health-benefits-of-vitamin-a.html
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php
http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/Health-benefits-vitamin-E/2011/02/01/id/369888
http://www.squidoo.com/salmon_tips
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/22/the-hidden-dangers-of-unc_n_120584.html

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Food of the Week: Avocado

Well, this is a brand new blog. I’m pretty excited about it, because I don’t get to talk about health and wellness very much. When I do, people just think I’m weird because my field is nowhere near in relation to health or wellness. I sit in front of a computer all day and code, which is probably actually really unhealthy. But hey, it’s my life man.

Anyway, I’m going to start with the first Food of the Week post. And I think I’ll start with my favorite food: The Avocado.

avocadoYes, I capitalized it. And I will do so throughout this entire article, because it’s that awesome. If I’m at a restaurant and something has Avocado in it, that’s what I’m eating. If I’m at a restaurant and Avocado isn’t anywhere on the menu, I leave the restaurant. I may be exaggerating.

Introduction

The Avocado is a fruit that comes from a tree native to Mexico (and apparently it’s also a town in California and the name of a Pearl Jam album, according to Wikipedia). It’s the fruit used to make the glorious guacamole you can get at Chipotle and Qdoba. Or any restaurant, I suppose, since that is what all guacamole is made out of.

The Avocado is sometimes referred to as the alligator pear (adorable) because of its green-ness (I guess), its shape, its thick, leathery exterior, and its sharp, harrowing teeth. Also, Steve Irwin used to wrestle them.

Believe it or not, The Avocado is actually not a pear. It’s a berry with one large seed inside of it. The flesh of an Avocado is smooth, buttery, awesome and green. Or at least it should be green. If you come across Avocado flesh that is not green, I would advise you not to eat it.

Nutrition

Avocados are incredibly good for you. Perhaps the greatest benefit we get from them is complete protein. This means it contains all 18 essential amino acids, which is something you can’t say about steak (which is also awesome, don’t get me wrong). Avocado protein is more easily absorbed by our bodies because they also contain lots of fiber. For any vegetarians / vegans out there (and hey, everyone else), The Avocado is a fantastic way to get more protein into your diet.

Avocado is frequently found on sushi rolls, making it the only reason I ever eat sushi.

Avocado is frequently found in sushi rolls, which is the only reason I ever eat sushi.

Avocados also contain healthy fat, similar to the kind you find in olive oil and almonds. They boost HDL (“good” cholesterol), which protects us from dangerous free radicals that can make us sick. HDL also prevents diabetes by regulating triglyceride levels. It’s been studied that avocados can be as effective at reducing levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) as statin drugs.

Another nutritional benefit of Avocados is their level of carotenoids, which are nutrients that deliver Vitamin A to our bodies. They are the reason carrots are so good for our eyesight. Like carrots, Avocados are excellent sources of carotenoids. Although Avocados don’t have its name adorably embedded into the word. Carotenoids also promote healthier functioning of both the immune system and the reproductive system. I’m all for anything that helps keep us flu-free and, you know… all good down there.

The next benefit is a big’un. There’s been a ton of buzz about omega-3 lately, and for good reason. Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to significantly improve heart health, reduce inflammation throughout the body, prevent cancer cell growth, lessen depression symptoms, prevent asthma attacks, boost prenatal health, improve cognitive function, prevent blood clots, reduce chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and even more. Avocados are rich in omega-3 with about 160 miligrams of alpha-linolenic acid. Other good sources of omega-3 include flax seeds (approx. 133% daily value), salmon, walnuts, sardines, beef (grass-fed), soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp, and tofu.

Avocados also contain a combination of various other nutrients, including Vitamin C (immunity), Vitamin E (age-slowing), selenium (free-radical fighting), zinc (cell growth and repair), and phytosterols (cholesterol-lowering).

I guess the point is… Avocados are like, really really good for you.

This one's probably ripe, but I can't really tell because it's an image and I can't touch it.

This one’s probably ripe, but I can’t really tell because it’s an image and I can’t touch it.

Choosing

Like all produce, you probably don’t want to eat avocados when they are overly ripe. You can tell when they are too ripe when they have dents on their skin, feel too soft, and have a little mouth that talks to you. Food shouldn’t talk to you. The skin of a ripe Avocado should be closer to black than green in color, be dent-less and feel slightly soft when you squeeze it.

Press on the tip of your nose (wash your hands first). That’s how it should feel when you squeeze. And I look pretty swag in the grocery store when I’m squeezing an avocado with my right hand and pushing on my nose with my left. I don’t look weird or disturbed at all.

You can always buy an unripe Avocado, which will still feel pretty hard and will be a lot greener. Just let it sit on the counter until it’s ripe. If it starts talking to you, throw it out.

Preparing and Eating

You can prepare an Avocado in many heavenly ways. Smash it up into a spread for crackers, make guacamole with it, chop it up into pieces for a salad, or slice it up and place it on chicken or something.

Start by washing the Avocado. I’m more concerned about the virus-riddled fingers of the general public than pesticides. In fact Avocados are #2 on the Clean 15 list, so you don’t have to buy them organic. Make that reason #257 for why I love them.

Place the Avocado length-wise on a cutting board or something. Make sure the fruit is perpendicular to your body (weird sentence).   Hold the Avocado securely with one hand and slice carefully down the center long-ways with your cutting hand. Use your holding hand to turn the Avocado so you cut completely around it.

Pull the two cut pieces apart from each other. Use a spoon to scoop the pit out. Be gentle. It’s the Avocado’s first time.

Pretend you’re Dexter and use a knife to slice out all the flesh. The most nutrients are in the parts closest to the skin, so don’t skimp. Get it all out of there. Really gut that thing.

Then, do whatever the hell you want with it.

Recipes

"Flauta", which is a Spanish word for "OMG".

These are Flautas. “Flauta” is Spanish for “OMG”.

Here are a few awesome Avocado-bearing recipes I found on the internetz. Usually via Pinterest, because that is basically all I do. Exaggerating again. Or am I? … Just look at the recipes.

Avocado and Crab SaladFamily Spice

Sunny Side Up Toast with Avocados – Who Knew?

Cayenne Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa – Martha Stewart

Avocado Coconut Ice Cream – Some the Wiser

Avocado Bacon and Eggs – SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl

Chicken Flautas – All Recipes

Sources

www.avocado.org
www.ucavo.ucr.edu
www.avocadosource.com
www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet
www.naturalnews.com/034370_avocado_nutrition_facts_health.html
www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84
www.powered-by-produce.com/2010/03/12/the-clean-15-foods-you-dont-have-to-buy-organic
www.cholesterol.about.com/od/cholesterolloweringfoods/a/phytosterol.htm
www.saywhydoi.com/why-do-i-need-zinc-benefits-of-zinc
www.antioxidantsdetective.com/benefits-of-selenium.html
www.health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/vitamin-supplements/benefits-of-vitamin-e.htm

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