Found on Ironman.com
If Alaska’s bounty isn’t on your weekly shopping list, it should be.
by Pip Taylor
We all know the drill: spinach, eggs, fruit, lean meats, check, check, check. Eating right is part of being a serious athlete. When it comes to can’t-miss foods that should be on all of our shopping lists, salmon stands out for a number of reasons.
As one of the most popular fish choices on the market today, salmon is widely touted by experts for its high levels of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats, high-quality protein, along with high levels of potassium, selenium and vitamin B12. Eating at least two servings a week (of fish and seafood in general) is recommended for reducing risk of heart disease, onset of Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, as well as boosting brain development in infants.
Beyond the health benefits, fish and seafood offer additional boosts to athletes in particular. It may assist with building and maintaining lean body mass (race weight here you come), improve recovery (so you can train again tomorrow), prevent illness and injury (get to the start line healthy), and aid mental cognition and skill acquisition (work on your high elbows). As a result, you’ll enjoy better energy and performance all around.
Part of the beauty of salmon, over other fish and seafood, is its availability and versatility. It can be bought fresh, frozen, canned, or smoked, and as whole fish, fillets, slices or steaks. There are also many different varieties, including coho, sockeye, Chinook, pink and chum. You also have the choice of wild caught or farmed salmon—an important choice on many levels, from health to environment and sustainability issues.
Wild versus farmed: What’s the (nutritional) difference?
Wild Alaska salmon has been found to have lower levels of pesticide residues, thanks to the famed clean, clear Alaskan waters. Wild caught salmon from these waters also wins out over farmed in the nutritional stakes: the products boast more potassium, calcium, iron and zinc, while being naturally lower in sodium. The fat content also differs with wild caught fish—the prized Omega 3 fats are what you’ll find here, with none of the dangerous saturated fats.
Good for you—and everyone else
Aside from nutritional and taste benefits, wild Alaskan salmon and seafood also has the edge when it comes to protecting the environment we love to swim, bike, run and race in. Lilani Estacio of Alaska Seafood says that Alaskan people take great pride and care in not only their pristine waters, but their fisheries as well.
“Generations of Alaskans have dedicated themselves to responsible fishing and biologists have developed methods for ensuring that Alaska’s fisheries are sustainable for the long term,” she says. Moreover, each small salmon fishing vessel in Alaska is essentially a floating family business, contributing to state and local economies. (For a recipe from Alaska Seafood, pictured above, see below.)
The authority in seafood choices, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, has also honored Alaskan salmon as the only salmon that meets four sustainability criteria, regarding a) the vulnerability of the fish, b) the effects of fishing on the local habitat, c) the status of wild stocks and d) the effect on other marine life inadvertently caught during the fishing. For other good choices when it comes to seafood, visit Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch website at Seafoodwatch.org.
How do I know if it’s wild caught?
It’s true that you’ll generally pay more for wild caught salmon than the farmed kind. And, when you’re paying more, you definitely want to know you’re getting what you pay for. One easy way is to simply ask where your fish is from. Estacio explains: “If it’s labeled Alaska, it’s without fail wild. This label is mandated by the state to practice wild, sustainable fishing. In other words there are zero farmed fish that come from Alaska.”
Storing, handling and cooking:
Fish is sometimes off-putting for beginner cooks, though it shouldn’t be. Salmon is quick and easy to cook—whether baked, steamed, pan fried, or added to salads or omelettes. Salmon also freezes well and, though many don’t know, can be cooked directly from a frozen state. Buying already frozen fish can be handy from a planning perspective and allows you to cook a healthy meal on even the busiest of days. Just remember: don’t refreeze a thawed piece of salmon.
Recipe: Planked Alaska Salmon with Sol-I-Mar Rub
Courtesy of AlaskaSeafood.org
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1-1/2 pounds Alaska Salmon fillets or steaks
- Soak wood plank in water 30 minutes to 2 hours. Blend all ingredients except Alaska Salmon.
- Pat wood plank with paper towels and spray-coat or lightly oil one side. Lay salmon on coated side of plank; spread 1 to 2 teaspoons rub mixture onto each salmon portion (not skin) or apply all of the rub to salmon side. Let the salmon rest 5 minutes before cooking.
- Heat grill to medium-high heat. Grill salmon using indirect heat (not directly over heat) in covered grill for 10 to 15 minutes. Cook just until salmon is opaque throughout.
- Chef’s Tip: This recipe works great whether you use a plank or cook straight on the grill. Or, bake at 400°F (6 to 7 inches from heat source) for 10 to 15 minutes.