It’s Valentine’s Day and I haven’t traditionally been over the moon about the holiday–and it’s not because I don’t adore my husband. I just get a little annoyed with the excessive marketing of candy for the occasion. Still, I wanted to do something nice for my fella and making something extra special for lunch seemed like a good option. Strawberries dipped in chocolate can wait for Spring when the berry is in season.
If you look at health magazines editions for February, most focus on the heart since it is the month that celebrates everything LOVE. Heart health info runs rampant in these books and I guess I’m no different because I want to focus this post on something exceptionally good for the heart…and brain–omega 3 fatty acids.
Salmon has been a table companion of ours for years and years and more and more research is piling up showing it’s benefit in everything from inflammation to a healthy brain. Why is salmon so good? Precisely because of its high amount of omega 3. Omega 3 contains both EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosohexanoic acid) which are extremely important for the brain. In fact, our brain is about 60% fat with 1/4 of that being DHA. Many types of fish such as sardines, mackerel, tuna and trout contain EPA and DHA but salmon is one of the richest sources.
However, not all salmon is created equally and the difference is determined by the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats. Some types of salmon like farmed salmon have more omega 6 than omega 3 while Pacific, Alaskan and wild-caught are typically higher in omega 3. The problem is that when omega 6 is much higher than omega 3 the result is inflammation. The optimal ratio is about 1:3 (omega 3 to omega 6) but because of the Standard American Diet includes a great deal of take-out, fast food and packaged/processed food, the ratio has sadly tipped in the wrong direction–more like 1:20 to 40 (omega 3 to omega6).
Keeping the omega 3 to omega 6 in the optimal ratio does a few things for body. First, this ratio is anti-inflammatory. Anytime it tips in the wrong direction, whether we feel it or not, there is inflammation going on somewhere in the body and that “somewhere” is often times the cardiovascular system. One study in China was particularly important in showing how omega 3 intake reduced cardiovascular disease.1 As I mentioned before, the brain is made of mostly fat and the DHA becomes part of the cell wall. Depressed patients, in fact, benefit greatly from an omega-3 rich diet because it helps with brain inflammation which could be an underlying cause.2
Eating less processed and fast food is definitely a step in the right direction. A next baby step (and not a hard one to take) is making fish such as salmon, trout and black cod (also known as sablefish) part of our culinary landscape. Salmon has been the go-to heart and brain-healthy choice for many families but black cod, less heard of but equally stunning in it’s fatty acid nutrition profile, has even more omega-3 than salmon except for the King species. Black cod lives deep in the cold water and thus accumulates more fat than other fish making it a luscious, buttery, silky eat.
So in honor of Valentine’s day and the other half of my heart–my husband–I bring to you this tasty Pan-Seared Black Cod recipe with some lovely seasoning to enhance it’s flavor–garam masala, sea salt, pepper and lime juice.
Pan-Seared Black Cod
Fish is no doubt heart healthy but if you are excited for a change from the usual salmon, tuna, cod, sole, sardine, trout and halibut options, you will be thrilled to try this silky white fish that will surprise your palate.
- 2 (8oz) pieces black cod, skin on
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1 T lime juice
- 1 T coconut or camelina oil
- Step 1 In a small bowl, mix together seasonings and lime juice
- Step 2 Smother over fish
- Step 3 Heat a skillet to medium high and add oil
- Step 4 Put fish in skillet with the skin side down. Cook 4 minutes one side, flip, then cook 2 more
- Step 5 Serve as I did on a bed of olive oil/balsamic tossed spinach
- Koh, Angela S., An Pan, Renwei Wang, Andrew O. Odegaard, Mark A. Pereira, Jian-Min Yuan, and Woon-Puay Koh. “The association between dietary omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular death: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology22, no. 3 (2013): 364-72. doi:10.1177/2047487313517576.
- Lawson, Lauren E., and Ronald Ross Watson. “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for Major Depression with Chronic Disease.” Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Brain and Neurological Health, 2014, 181-86. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-410527-0.00015-6.