A Brief Omega 3 Primer and 3 Delicious Fish Recipes

By now we should all know that eating fish is a good way to get our Omega 3 fatty acids. Yes? But here’s a question: what exactly are Omega 3 fatty acids and why do we need them?

In this post, I’m going to give you a primer on Omega 3 fatty acids; 3 fantastic seafood recipes; some great information on what kind of seafood to buy that is found in Good Fish, by Becky Selengut; and also, the link to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Site, where you can find info on the healthiest, most sustainable fish to buy.

First, I just have to say this… and it’s important: we all need a mixture of healthy fatty acids in our diet to maintain optimal health. Second, natural fats are all healthy, although we may all need to adjust our ratios depending upon our genetic background, health status, etc….

Contrary to the information we’ve been spoon fed for most of our lives, the fats that are BAD, are the unnatural, processed, hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils that came onto the scene and exploded during the past century, particularly since WWII. Along with sugar, these unhealthy processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats are killing us, and we should all avoid them like the plague.

OK, so the following is a lot of info on Omega 3’s, but it’s good info….and you’re going to learn it in a quicker amount of time than it took ME to learn it, so..here we go:

There are 3 classifications of fats and oils (lipids)

  • Saturated,
  • Monosaturated,
  • Polyunsaturated.

There are no foods…animal or plant…. that are ONLY 1 or the other of these. All of them are made up of some percentage of each of these different classifications of lipids. We call something “saturated” because it has predominantly saturated fats vs. the monosaturated and polyunsaturated, and so on with the others.

From these fats come fatty acids, and there are two EFA’s ( Essential Fatty Acids)…. namely Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s . They’re called essential because we MUST get them from our diet.

The human body is incredible with it’s ability to convert and manufacture necessary nutrients that we need to survive… but it’s not perfect and some things we really do need to supply from what we eat.

Omega 3’s can be provided by either plant or animal sources. Examples of  plant sources are flax, wheat germ, walnut, hemp, and pumpkin.  Animal sources come from fish.

From these fatty acids, eiconsanoids and prostaglandins are made.  These are special short-lived hormone-like substances that exert complex control over many bodily systems… mainly inflammation or immunity… and act as messengers in the central nervous system. The networks of controls that depend upon eicosanoids and prostaglandins are among the most complex in the human body.

The omega-6 eicosanoids and prostaglandins are generally pro-inflammatory; omega-3’s are much less so. The amounts and balance of these fats in a person’s diet will affect the body’s eicosanoid/prostaglandin-controlled functions, with effects on cardiovascular disease, triglycerides, blood pressure, and arthritis.

They provide the fine tuning needed for maintaining homeostasis within the body; increasing blood flow within the kidneys; dilating bronchial tubes; controlling inflammatory function; influencing pain signals, and the maintenance of tissues such as the lining of the stomach.

So…. you can see why you wouldn’t want to live without them and why they are so necessary for all of us to get through our diet.  You may also have heard of some of these prostaglandins, such as GLA, ALA, EPA and DHA .

From the Omega 3 food sources that I listed above,  ALA and EPA come from the flax, wheat germ etc…  but it is a difficult process for the body to convert those to DHA. In addition, other problems such as absorption issues, diabetes, etc… can interfere with this conversion.

Which is what brings us to fish oil, as it naturally provides DHA and can provide EPA as well. There is no conversion process necessary. That’s the reason you hear so much about eating fatty fish from cold waters such as salmon, sardines, and cod as well as consuming fish oil such as cod liver oil.

Bottom line, we should all try to consume adequate levels of sustainable, healthy fatty fish. (At the end of this post, I’ve given you the link to the Monterrey Aquarium Sustainable Fish source to make sure you are eating a healthy, as well as a sustainable fish).

As for fish oil, I think the Carlson’s Lemon Flavored Cod Liver Oil and also the Fish Oil tastes good, is easy to find in stores and is a good thing to take a tsp. of on a regular basis.

OK….so here are some recipes… I promise you, they are DELICIOUS. If you don’t think so, there’s something wrong with you….

Huachinango Francesca

serves 6

This recipe is from the Private Collection Cookbook from the Palo Alto Junior League Cookbook. Over the past 20 years, it has NEVER failed to get people to comment and ask for the recipe… even people who supposedly don’t like fish. 

Important: This recipe originally called for Red Snapper…. but don’t use it! It’s on the “overfished” list and is in decline all over the world. I’ve used Sablefish or Black Cod as well as Pacific (not Atlantic) Petrale Sole.  SMH

  • 2-2 ¼ pounds fish
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup fresh limejuice
  • 2 TBSP. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced very thinly
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 1-28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped.. don’t’ get crushed, as it will be like spaghetti sauce)
  • 10-12 pitted green olives, slices in half
  • 2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced*
  • 1/8 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. dry thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 TBSP. butter
  • Cilantro

Place fish in shallow, glass dish. Make a paste of salt and garlic and gently rub over the fillets. Add limejuice and marinate at room temp, covered, for at least an hours, preferably two, turning the fish several times.

About 25 minutes before serving time, heat the oil in a heavy skillet and gently sauté the onion until translucent about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, chilies, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the sauce to a bowl to keep warm on back of stove. Add the butter to the same pan over high heat. When it is sizzling but not brown, add fillets, discarding marinade. Maintain high heat, cooking the fillets 2-3 minutes on each side,

As soon as fillets begin to flake, pour the sauce over them, discarding the bay leaves, and remove from heat.

Transfer the fish and its sauce to a warmed platter and decorate it with sprigs of cilantro.

  • Note: I used pepper stuffed Green Olives “Tutto Calabria” brand…. I got them at City Market. I took the little red peppers OUT and just used the olives. The heat that was left in those olives from the peppers was amazing! But you can use regular green olives with the jalapeno, but I think you might want to use more than 2 jalapenos.
  • Also, depending on the fish you use and how long you marinate it, you may have to drain off some liquid as the fish is cooking….. SMH 
  • According to Good Fish by Becky Selengut, black cod from Alaska is the “Best Choice” while black cod from California, Oregon and Washington  is a “Good Choice”.  Alaska season: March through November. BC: year-round. California,  Oregon, Wasington: August through October. Also, she says she like to use the tail pieces of black cod because they’re boneless. Don’t buy farmed black cod from Canada.

 Grilled Fish Tacos

4-6 Servings

My husband found the following recipe in Cook This Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. We’ve modifed it different ways by using store bought mango salsa, adding a chipotle sauce that we made by adding chipotles to sour cream, and have tried flour tortillas too. No matter what, it’s delicious!

  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1 avocado, pitted peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnish
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and black peper
  • Avocado Oil, Grape Seed Oil, or Coconut Oil, either neutral or natural taste (* the recipe calls for canola oil… you think it’s healthy don’t you? No fault of your own, but really, it’s not.  I don’t think any of us should use canola oil for various reasons, but one reason is that something like 99% of it is Genetically Modified. Stay away from that stuff.  Also, don’t heat oil until it smokes, as that’s when it’s breaking down, oxidizing and rancidifying)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of fresh Alaskan Halibut( * the recipe called for a different fish, but we used the halibut… adjust your cooking time depending on the fish you use and how thick it is).
  • 1 TBSP blackening spice (see below)
  • 8 small corn or flour tortillas
  • 2 cups finely shredded red cabbage

Mix the mango, avocado, onion, and the juice of 1 lime in a bowl. Season with cilantro, salt and pepper.

Heat a grill or stovetop grill pan until hot. Drizzle a light coating of oil over the fish and rub on the blackening spice.

Cook the fish, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook for another 4 minutes (adjust cooking time depending on fish you use.. I recommend wild Alaskan halibut or black cod (sablefish). Remove fish from the heat.

Warm the tortillas on the grill for 1-2 minutes. Break the fish into chunks and divide among the warm tortillas. Top with the cabbage and the mango salsa. Serve with lime wedges.

We spread the warm tortillas with a chipolte sour cream we made by combining some chopped chipotles from a can with some of the sauce with a good quality sourcream (very few ingredients and only pasteurized, NOT ultra pasteurized).

The Heart of Darkness (blackening spice)

1 tsp. each cumin, paprika, cayenne, oregano, black pepper, and salt                                  (this is not a marinade since there is no acid, but a blackening rub, which is a healthy way to liven up fish and poultry)

According to Good Fish by Becky Selengut, pacific halibut is the best choice.  It’s caught in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The season is March through November. Pay attention to the color, it should be white or off-white. If it has a yellow tinge, it’s old. Dull white spots are a sign of freezer burn.

Shrimp and Scallop Posole

OMG. This came from BonAppetit in 2007. Dee-lish…us!

Posole, a hearty Mexican soup, is traditionally prepared with pork or chicken. Shrimp and scallops make this version special enough for a party.

6 servings

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (or more) bottled clam juice
  • 1 15-ounce can white hominy, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa), medium or mild
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated lime peel
  • 1 pound uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1 pound large sea scallops, halved horizontally
  • 4 Tbsp chopped cilantro, divided

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir about 30 seconds. Add 3 cups clam juice and next 4 ingredients to skillet; simmer 5 minutes.

The above can be made up to 4 hours ahead.

Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and chill. Bring to simmer before continuing. Add shrimp, scallops, and 3 TBSP cilantro to simmering broth, adding more clam juice to thin if necessary. Simmer until seafood is just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, Divide among bowls; sprinkle with remaining cilantro

According to Good Fish,  by Becky Selengut:

The best bet for scallops are either farmed Qualicum scallops from British Columbia or Weathervane scallops from Alaska. The author says we should buy “dry-packed” or “chemical free” .  Ask to smell the scallops… they should have a light, sweet ocean smell or hardly any at all.

As for shrimp, the best are pink shrimp from Oregon or Washington (April-October) and Spot prawns from Washington or British Columbia ( spring and summer). If you are buying frozen or previously frozen, make sure there is no sign of freezer burn (little white or dry-looking patches).  These type of shrimp or prawns are not sold in the “count per pound” size but rather by price per pound.


This entry was posted in Foundations of Health, What to Eat and How to Cook. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Brief Omega 3 Primer and 3 Delicious Fish Recipes

  1. JRM says:

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SUE! We’ve loved your words of wisdom for the last TWELVE MONTHS since you started spreading the good word on 10/7/10 … and NOW we are all looking forward to the NEXT 12 months! All your fans remain poised for your next words of wisdom …

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