Keep the health benefits of seafood going all year long

During all of the years I worked and lived in Washington, D.C., my family and I always stopped to take a break in August and spend a couple weeks in New England. We truly enjoyed the ocean and the plentiful supply of fresh seafood. That time in New England certainly gave us a nice respite from “the swamp.”

Up until this August, the U.S. Congress would always take the whole month off, signaling an annual government “shutdown.” And the rest of the city followed suit, since government is the main focus of business in D.C. Somehow, that annual August shutdown never sparked apocalyptic predictions that we’d never be able to survive without the federal government being open.

On our own August shutdown, we always went back near to where I grew up in Cape Ann, MA (the “other cape”). Our favorite place was surrounded on three sides by the ocean waves. About the only place in town where you can’t see the water is from the lavish, new building that houses the federal government’s regulatory agency for fishing.

This agency has put the local business, dating back to 1620, “under water.” Mind you, this business employed the same fisherman who took time off from working on the water during the American Revolution to make the British evacuate Boston, to help George Washington escape from Long Island and New York City, and then to row him across the Delaware in 1776.

In Cape Ann, you can still get fresh seafood right on the docks and from local seafood restaurants. Even in other parts of the country, you’re never far from fish anymore. Even if it means buying frozen seafood from Alaska. It keeps the packing houses busy, since the government shut down most of the local fishing.

Eat seafood year-round, not just during the summer at the seashore 

There are many economical reasons to support local fisheries. And there are plenty of health benefits to eating fish as well. You should strive to make fresh fish and seafood a regular part of your diet.

Fish boosts heart health, lowers the risk of Type II diabetes, and provides natural omega-3 fatty acids. And, of course, fatty acids reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and have a host of other benefits — especially for the brain and nervous system.

I always encourage you to buy wild-caught fish (NOT farm-raised fish). Wild-caught fish are one of the last sources of truly wild animal meat that you can still find at your grocer.

Cod is one of my favorites. And it has an interesting history…

For centuries, fishermen brought back plentiful cod to feed the hungry masses of Europe with a good source of dietary protein and fat-soluble vitamins. Then, early colonists discovered and began exploiting cod fishing grounds among the shallow banks off the coast of northeast North America.

Many settlements along the northeast coast of New England and Canada started out as summer fishing camps, where fishermen would catch cod, dry them on the granite rock outcroppings (uncovered by the glaciers at the surface during the last Ice Age), and then pack them in barrels to return to Europe. Today, these famed fishing grounds provide prime locations for whale watching.

During the Industrial Revolution, growing populations in urban areas relied on “fish and chips” (cod and potatoes) — both from the New World — for affordable, quick and nutritional meals. The fried, “industrialized,” fast food versions available today make for poor nutrition.

You can cut the calories and improve the quality of your fish by using ground, organic, whole-grain meal for the breading. Sweet potatoes, instead of white potatoes, provide more carotenoids and vitamin A.

Another local seafood favorite is clam chowder, which can also be heavy on the calories. (It was the hearty mainstay described by Henry David Thoreau in his early travel book Cape Cod.) The Manhattan version avoids some calories by using a tomato base. But I don’t see that version around much anymore…

The traditional ingredients (clam, cream, corn, and potatoes) were all abundant. They were also easy to throw together and keep simmering on the stove, while going about other chores.

You can cut the calories of clam chowder and keep it healthy by using whole milk and vegetable stock instead of cream. (Low-fat dairy is another manufactured dietary disaster, as I reported earlier this month.) You can also swap the corn (almost all genetically modified now) and potatoes for lima beans, which are packed with fiber and other healthy constituents.

Lobster rolls were invented by seafood sellers, so they could use up extra pieces of lobster and put them on a roll. Instead of mayo and butter, you can use avocado and lemon, with organic, wheat-free croutons in a lettuce wrap or over salad greens. (I use Aleia’s Gluten-Free Croutons.)

For crab or fish cakes, add some haddock or Pacific salmon served with a yogurt-based sauce or hot chili pepper sauce, instead of the traditional tartar sauce. (Remember, use only wild-caught fish.)

Next time, I will share with you some tips on how to shop for seafood and some of my favorite seafood recipes (perfect for a cookout in the backyard or an at-home dinner during a beach vacation).