Health Tips: Something’s fishy ... and that’s good

Did you know that you could eat sardines every day for several months and never have to open the same -- often artistically designed -- tin twice? There is even a subculture of sardine enthusiasts who collect various tins and then blog about them (check out http://mouth-full-of-sardines.blogspot.com/). But sardines’ virtues extend beyond their coveted taste and packaging.

A recent in-depth review of 40 clinical trials with more than 135,000 participants shows just how smart it is to eat foods like sardines that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that EPA and DHA supplementation, with an average daily dose of 1,220 mg, reduced the risk of fatal heart attacks by 35% and coronary-heart-disease-associated deaths by 9%. Supplementation also reduced the overall incidence of heart attacks by 13% and heart disease by 10%. 

Other studies have found these two omega-3s also lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration and certain cancers. 

As with every nutrient, the best source for EPAs and DHAs is food. Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies and sardines are loaded with ‘em. Sardines deliver 2,000 mg in each 3-ounce serving. But even if you’re incorporating these foods into your diet, you probably aren’t getting enough of these omega-3s. So, ask your doctor if a supplement of fish or algal oil (900 mg at least) is right for you, especially if you’re at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Freeze your veggies and fruits for nutritious produce all winter

Frozen food jokes: “You know what I do when I get scared by frozen food? Ice cream!” And ... “I made the mistake of biting into some half-frozen food. Then I realized doing that wasn’t very well thawed out.” 

Amusing, but freezing veggies and fruit is no joke. It’s smart. Vegetables lose 15% to 77% of their vitamin C within a week of harvest, according to a paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Fruits lose their C too. A wide range of other important nutrients also disappear from most produce somewhere between being picked, shipped, distributed, put on grocery store shelves and kept in your fridge. 

In contrast, studies show that most well-frozen fruit and vegetables have little change in nutrient content. Even fresh spinach loses only 30% of its vitamin C after 12 months if it’s frozen to -4 F. This time of year you may find local (that’s key) corn, beets, cauliflower, beans, Brussels sprouts, turnips, celeriac, spinach, Jerusalem artichokes and pumpkin, as well as persimmons, cranberries, chestnuts, apples, blackberries, pears, plums and grapes. 

How-to: Wash and dry whole berries or fruit slices and spread on a sheet pan so they are not touching. Put them in the freezer until hard. For veggies like beans or broccoli, wash, trim and blanch in boiling water, dry with paper towels and chill in the fridge. Then put fruit and vegetables in plastic bags; extract all air and seal tightly to avoid freezer burn. (Try the straw technique explained at thekitchn.com; search for “Hacks for Vacuum-Sealing.”) Enjoy all winter.

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