Super Seven Sustainable Seafood Picks-2010

It’s World Oceans Day, which spotlights the health of our waters. As a consumer, I know the best thing I can do is make sustainable seafood choices. That’s not always easy, because few foods are as confusing to buy these days as fish. If it’s wild-caught, is it being overfished? If it’s farmed, is it causing environmental problems? You could spend hours at the fish counter, reading labels and grilling the fishmonger, and still walk away bewildered. Many fish go by several names, which adds to the confusion.

sustainable-seafood-picks-2010To make those choices easier, Lia introduced NOURISH Evolution’s Super Sustainable Seafood Picks last year. Those choices still are smart, and we’ve updated the list this year with some new entries. Our criteria are simple: A fish must be raised or caught in an environmentally sound manner, safe to eat, widely available, and easy to identify. We cross-checked our selections with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWatch, Blue Ocean Institute’s Seafood Guide, and the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector.

Tilapia. The ancient Egyptians farmed tilapia and this freshwater fish is still an aquaculture superstar, especially when it’s cultivated in the U.S. in recirculating tanks with minimal risk of pollution or escaped fish. Little fish oil or fishmeal is required for feed, so tilapia is easy on resources, which makes it affordable too.

Farmed Clams, Mussels, Bay Scallops, and Oysters. These bivalve mollusks leave their environment even cleaner than when they arrive because they filter particulates from the water. Even better, farmed versions of these mollusks from anywhere in the world are considered environmentally sound.

Alaskan Pacific Cod. Moist, lean, tender, and mild–if you crave cod these days, make sure it’s from Alaska, which has the most sustainable supply. It’s also marketed as Alaska cod, true cod, gray cod, or simply as “cod” (like its less-sustainable cousin, Atlantic cod).

Sablefish. This omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish is new to home cooks, who relish its velvety, buttery texture. Sablefish is neither cod nor butterfish, though it resembles both and may be labeled black cod, Alaska cod (just like Pacific cod, so be sure to ask the fishmonger if it’s really sablefish) or butterfish. Sablefish from Alaska or British Columbia is the most sustainable choice; wild Alaksan salmon also works well in many recipes calling for sablefish.

Alaskan Wild Salmon. Alaska’s salmon is a model of fishery management, so it’s abundant and widely available (fresh when it’s in season in summer and frozen year-round). We also think wild salmon has superior flavor and texture to its farmed cousins. If you can’t find wild Alaskan salmon, try sablefish.

Herring/Sardines. Sardines are a type of herring, a small, fast-growing fish caught in purse seines with minimal bycatch and habitat damage. You’ll typically find them in cans or jars, often smoked or pickled, although fresh whole sardines are increasingly available, too and are delicious grilled or broiled.

Mahimahi. If you love grouper and red snapper–both turn up on “don’t eat” lists–order domestically caught (including Hawaii) mahi mahi instead. This is a fast-maturing fish that’s lean and firm-textured, yet moist and may be labeled dorado or dolphinfish (although it’s unrelated to dolphins).

The state of the oceans seems daunting right now, but simply making smart seafood choices like those above are a powerful way to help preserve them for years to come. What you eat really does matter.

Alison Ashton thumbnail

A longtime editor, writer, and recipe developer, Alison Ashton is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef and the Editorial Director for NOURISH Evolution. She has worked as a features editor for a national wire service and as senior food editor for a top food magazine. Her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Natural Health as well as on her blog, Eat Cheap, Eat Well, Eat Up.

Aphrodisiac Foods: Folklore or Fact?

by Cheryl Sternman Rule

Imagine if it were really true. If we could go to the grocery store and fill our carts with edibles that would turn us into sexual dynamos. If a certain vegetable made our libidos soar, or a fruit intensified bedroom pleasure, or a meat or fish or beverage so transformed us that passersby would inch a little closer.

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that throughout history, folkloric traditions have promoted certain foods as aphrodisiacs. These foods, named for the Greek goddess Aphrodite, are believed not only to enhance sexual pleasure, but to bring us closer to the divine, make us more fertile, and hold forth the promise of immortality. The bad news, of course, is that the scientific proof surrounding these claims is somewhat specious — particularly those that relate to, well, immortality.

If you’re a skeptic, that’s okay – but let’s take a look at some common foods and assess their aphrodisiacal impact from both a folkloric and scientific perspective.

ancho-cinnamonOysters.  Perhaps the most commonly touted aphrodisiac, these bivalves are said to resemble the female, um … parts, and thus by their very contour are believed to incite passionate fervor. Nutritionally, they boast a high zinc content, and this essential mineral has been shown to increase blood flow and to play a role in male fertility.

Chiles and spices.  Spices have long been associated with the exotic, and with the titillating fear of the unknown. Ancient Romans and medieval Europeans, who favored imported spices especially, believed them to awaken sexual interest and arousal. From a scientific viewpoint, hot chiles do contain capsaicin (concentrated in their white, pithy veins), which causes lips to swell and sting, blood flow to increase, and heart rates to quicken. These symptoms simulate – what else? – sexual arousal. Some dried spices (like cinnamon and cloves, for example) are rich in antioxidants, and thus good for overall health, while roots like ginger are touted both for their healthful and aphrodisiac properties.

Milk and honey.  According to Miriam Hospodar in her article on Aphrodisiac Foods in the the 2004 issue of the journal Gastronomica, “Milk and dairy products were lauded for their aphrodisiac, rejuvenating, and life-extending properties. All but one of Kama Sutra’s aphrodisiac recipes contain sugar, milk, honey, or clarified butter…”  Scientifically, of course, milk is an excellent source of calcium, and at only 90 calories per cup, it’s an excellent overall energy booster. Drinking it cold (and spiked with chile!) will prevent it from having that somnolent effect that warm milk can have.  The last thing you want on Valentine’s Day is to be, ahem, drowsy. As for honey, sweet foods are often offered as tokens of love and affection. Candies, cookies, chocolates, little cakes — there’s a reason we give these items to our sweethearts this time of year rather than, say, salads or sausages, and honey is no exception. Hospodar says that there are numerous references to honey being “a divine substance that came from heaven.” Valentine’s manna, perhaps?

Nuts and seeds.  Hospodar writes of an Islamic sex manual called The Perfumed Garden which promotes a diet of almonds and pine nuts “chased by a glassful of thick honey for three consecutive days.” The concoction, it was believed, would increase sexual stamina for married men. Because pine nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and other zinc-rich foods are also high in protein and beneficial fatty acids, they do in fact contribute to overall wellness and heart health, in particular . . . increasing, by extension, overall vitality.

Chocolate. Despite its ubiquity this month and presence on Valentine’s Day gift lists, chocolate gets mixed reviews for its ability to stimulate love and desire. On the one hand, cacao, a sacred Aztec food, was believed to inspire eroticism; on the other, it was condemned for inflaming passions irresponsibly. Chocolate does contain feel-good chemicals like serotonin, which can create a rush of pleasure, so there may be some chemical explanation, however tenuous, for its hallowed place in aphrodisiac folklore.

Will these foods make you feel good about yourself? Perhaps; because foods that promote good health and sound nutrition provide the keys to overall wellbeing. Will they actually heighten libidinous desires? That’s still open for debate. For now . . . you can experiment on your sweetie with my Spicy Valentine’s Love Potion.  Check back and let us know how things go.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is a food and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, including EatingWell and Body+Soul. She is the voice behind the food blog 5 Second Rule.