These tasty takes on six different kinds of fish pack a healthy punch with little caloric costBy: Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D.
You probably understand why fish is a top choice for runners—it packs a healthy punch with little caloric cost. But you may not eat it often because you're not sure what to buy or how to prepare it. Then there's concern about mercury contamination and pollution from farmed fish waste. Plus, many wild species are overfished, leading to dwindling populations. It's enough to make you sprint to the poultry case. And that's a shame, says sports dietitian Molly Kimball, R.D, since there are plenty of alternatives to more popular—but less environmentally sound—seafood choices. With the right cooking method, these fish are easy to prepare and great tasting, too.
Your diet is crucial to overall running performance and can help boost your fitness and speed.
The Fish: ARCTIC CHAR
Milder than salmon, arctic char is a good source of DHA and EPA, omega-3s that protect against heart disease. "They have an anti-inflammatory effect," says Kimball, "so they may reduce inflammation that leads to soreness." Char gets its pink hue from astaxanthin, an antioxidant that raises HDL, or so-called "good cholesterol." Most char is farmed in land-based, closed tanks, so there's little risk pollutants or fish can escape into open water.
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The Recipe: MAPLE GLAZED ARCTIC CHAR
Combine 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 tablespoon each balsamic vinegar and orange zest. Brush mixture on four char fillets and cook at 450°F for 12 minutes. Brush with glaze again halfway through.
Another Great Catch: U.S. Pacific Cod. Years of heavy fishing have led to a widespread decline in Atlantic Cod population making the Pacific-born version a better buy.
The Fish: BARRAMUNDI
Native to Australia, barramundi is now farmed (using sound practices) in the United States. "It has a buttery, sweet flavor that's not at all fishy," says dietitian Kate Geagan, R.D., author of Go Green, Get Lean. Five ounces provide 30 grams of protein and 833 milligrams of omega-3s—nearly three times as much as cod and tilapia. Check your grocer's freezer for fillets, which are flash frozen to preserve the fish's texture and flavor.
The Recipe: BARRAMUNDI IN SAFFRON BROTH
Cook four fillets in a pan with 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat, 2 minutes per side. Remove fish. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon saffron to pan. Simmer, add fish, and cook 2 minutes. Divide broth and fish into four bowls. Top with dill.
Another Great Catch: Pole and line-caught Albacore and Yellowfin Tuna. Choose these two over Bluefin Tuna, which can have high levels of mercury and is overfished.
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The Fish: CANNED SARDINES
Don't dismiss sardines: They're packed with omega-3s—containing eight times more than canned light tuna—and vitamin D. "Vitamin D is key for a runner's immune system," says Geagan. "It helps reduce the chance of coming down with a bug during training." The edible (and barely noticeable) bones in sardines are rich in calcium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch named sardines a "Super Green" choice for their low contamination and abundant populations.
The Recipe: SARDINE PIZZA
Divide 1 cup tomato sauce, two cans drained sardines, 1 sliced red onion, and 1/2 cup roasted red pepper between two naan. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F. Top each with 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and 1 cup arugula. Cook until cheese melts.
More Meal Ideas: If you like to run in the morning, refuel afterward with one of these healthy breakfasts.
The Fish: SABLEFISH
Also called black cod, sablefish is sweet with pearly-white meat. Three ounces provide a good dose of selenium and 1,400 milligrams of omega-3s—about 30 percent more than wild salmon. A recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition found high intake of fish omegas improve how efficiently muscles use oxygen, which may delay muscle fatigue. Look for wild-caught sablefish from Alaska and British Columbia that's certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
The Recipe: SABLEFISH WITH POMEGRANATE
Boil 1 cup pomegranate juice with 1 tablespoon each brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Lower heat and simmer until syrup forms (12 minutes). Broil four fillets for 10 minutes, then brush with syrup.
Another Great Catch: Wild Striped Bass. Ths is a better choice than the more popular and better-known Chilean Sea Bass, which has been overfished using environmentally destructive methods.
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The Fish: PACIFIC HALIBUT
Halibut has a mild flavor and meaty texture that will appeal to even fussy seafood eaters. It's virtually free of saturated fat and provides protein, omega-3s, selenium, potassium, and vitamin B6. "Vitamin B6 is necessary for protein metabolism and proper nervous and immune system functioning," says Kimball. Halibut from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon fisheries are the most sustainable. Avoid Atlantic halibut, which has been overfished, reducing populations to extremely low levels.
The Recipe: HALIBUT WITH KIWI SALSA
Boil 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, juice from two lemons, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, and four sprigs thyme. Turn off heat, add four fillets, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Top fish with salsa made with two diced kiwi, one diced jalapeno, lime juice, and cilantro.
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The Fish: MUSSELS
This tender shellfish brims with selenium and vitamin B12—one serving provides more than three times the daily quota. "Vitamin B12 is crucial for energy metabolism and the formation of red blood cells," says Geagan. Mussels are also a good source of omega fats, iron (which helps energize muscles by increasing oxygen delivery), and protein, containing 20 grams in just three ounces. Plus, they're inexpensive, tasty, and easy to prepare.
The Recipe: COCONUT LIME MUSSELS
Rinse 2 pounds mussels. Boil 1 can light coconut milk, juice from two limes, 1/2 cup cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Add mussels, cover, and simmer until opened (three minutes). Toss any that stay shut. Serve coconut liquid as a dipping sauce.
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