There is a tradition in Catholic countries around the world of fasting, abstaining from meat, and eating seafood instead, before Christmas. Of course, the French have their own twist on this sort of tradition, called the “Reveillon” (from the French reveil, or “waking”). People observe the Reveillon by fasting prior to midnight mass on Christmas. Then they come back home and stay awake into the wee hours of the morning eating. The same kind of tradition holds in Quebec and parts of Northern Ontario (French Canada), Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, and Romania, and in the US in New Orleans in its homes and restaurants famous for French cuisine and observances.
And in Italy on Christmas Eve, seven different kinds of fish are traditionally served to observe the abstention from meat (“le sette pesci”): baccala (codfish), calamari (squid) or polpi (octopus), spaghetti alle vongole (pasta with clam sauce), sardines, smelts, and scungilli (conch). The people who follow these traditions gain some significant health benefits in addition to spiritual ones.
Observational studies have consistently shown the association between higher fish consumption and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. And now, an interesting new clinical trial from Norway and Canada has discovered that eating fish can substantially lower your triglyceride levels—another major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.1
For four weeks, 20 healthy men and women ate a diet with 60 percent protein from codfish. Then for another four weeks, they ate a similar diet in which the protein came from lean beef.
Researchers took blood samples from the participants at the beginning and end of both the fish and beef diets. And they discovered that the seafood eaters had lower triglycerides than the meat eaters.
So this holiday season, I recommend you start your own tradition of eating more fish and seafood. I recommend eating seafood at least twice a week not only for its high protein content, but also for its omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that have huge benefits for the brain and nervous system. And, of course, help protect the heart.
Carry that tradition into the new year, and your heart and brain will say grazie.
1“Lean-seafood intake reduces cardiovascular lipid risk factors in health subjects: results from a randomized controlled trial with a crossover design.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Sep;102(3):582-92.