Eating fish has been tied with lower rates of heart disease, stroke, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. But how it you eat may be the real key to reaping its benefits. Recent research from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine concluded that study volunteers who regularly ate fish had larger brain volumes in regions associated with memory and cognition, but only if the fish baked or broiled, not fried.
Baking and broiling are also better for your waistline. For example, a dozen fried shrimp can pack 280 calories, versus a mere 85 calories for 12 shrimp that have been steamed or broiled. To make up the difference you’d have to spend about 25 minutes on the elliptical. So if fish and chips is your usual go-to, try lightening it up.
Here are five tips for making baked and broiled seafood taste fantastic.
Use good fat
Before cooking, brush fish filets with extra virgin olive or coconut oil, or slather with a jarred sauce, such as sundried tomato, roasted red pepper, or basil pesto. Or after cooking, top with sliced or chopped avocado, finely chopped nuts, or a dollop of olive tapenade or drizzle of tahini.
Add herbs and spices
There are numerous ways to season seafood, from a simple combo of garlic and Italian herbs to a fiery layer of blackened seasonings. Some of my favorite combinations include: fresh squeezed lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, and black pepper; minced garlic, fresh grated ginger, ground turmeric, and crushed red pepper; fresh squeezed lemon juice, lemon peel, minced garlic, parsley, and black pepper; fresh dill, minced garlic, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
After baking or broiling, stack fish with layers of other delicious healthy foods, such as hummus, sautéed spinach, roasted tomatoes, seasoned lentils, sauteed mushrooms, wild rice, mashed sweet potato, spaghetti squash, mango salsa, or slaw.
In addition to chilled shrimp cocktail, nearly any fish can be served cold after it’s cooked. Top an entrée salad with chilled fish; add it to a cold salad made with veggies and either whole grain pasta, wild rice, or quinoa; add it to a classic chilled veggie dish like a marinated cucumber salad; or spoon it into lettuce boats made from outer romaine leaves.
Add it to other dishes
After simply baking or boiling, add seafood to another flavorful dish, such as a soup, stew, stir fry or veggie “pasta” dish. Or spoon it into corn tortillas and top with pico de gallo and guacamole for a healthy version of healthy fish tacos.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.