Many of the simanim on Rosh Hashana may be a regular part of your diet, but others…well, if you consider them “occasional” foods, you wouldn’t be alone. Apples and carrots are pretty standard items, but I admit that I had never eaten a leek patty until my first Rosh HaShana at my in-laws! It’s a great time to be brave and consider new foods and new ways of serving them. Beets, pomegranates, dates, and black-eyed peas are foods that may not be routinely featured on your table, but they offer many health benefits. You’re already buying them – how about incorporating them as part of other meals as well?
I hope that fish isn’t as foreign to you as some of the other simanim may be, because there are so many good reasons for it to have a permanent place in your weekly menu. Read on and be convinced! Then follow the links below for recipe ideas.
5 Reasons to Eat Fish All Year Round
1. Fish is a great source of high-quality protein. Protein is a nutrient with many critical functions in the body, including growth and maintenance and immunity. As part of your diet, protein is the nutrient that will most effectively keep you feeling full. As an added bonus, fish is low in saturated fat.
2. Fish boosts the quality of your diet by providing important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins D and B12 and iron, calcium, and magnesium.
3. Omega-3s! Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients – your body needs them but cannot make them, meaning they need to obtained through diet. Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from plant foods such as walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil, but these are in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is not used as efficiently by the body. Thus, the omega-3 fatty acids provided by fish are more beneficial to your health.
Omega-3s are critical for brain and eye development and neural function. They can also reduce the inflammatory process that leads to many chronic diseases. For this reason, a diet rich in omega-3s can benefit numerous health conditions. Clinical evidence is strongest for omega-3s as related to the prevention of heart disease. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and triglycerides and help prevent hardening of the arteries. The evidence is so good that the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings (3.5 oz each) of fish each week. Omega-3s may also play a role in the prevention and treatment of conditions including macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, mood disorders, and certain types of cancers. Interestingly, a recent study concluded that higher intakes of DHA and EPA were associated with a significantly lower prevalence of childhood obesity. Research on the health benefits of omega-3s is widespread and ongoing…stay tuned!
4. Mercury contamination does not present as big of a concern as you might think. Mercury is a contaminant found in fish that can have negative effects on brain development and the nervous system. Some people, particularly pregnant women, are scared off by the possibility of mercury contamination and they avoid eating fish. Their desire to be conscientious about their health is admirable, but misguided. Ironically, avoiding fish during pregnancy may do more harm than good because a low intake of omega-3s can be at least as dangerous to a baby’s brain development! Eating the right types of fish in the right amounts is the key to striking a healthy balance. Fish containing the highest levels of mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish – not exactly what you were planning for dinner! Low-mercury fish include salmon, tilapia, trout, flounder, pollock, white fish, sardines, herring, and canned light tuna. (Albacore, or “white”, tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, and should be consumed by pregnant women less frequently.)
5. Fish is a pleasure to work with. Really. There are many different types of fish and ways to serve it, and it can be very easy and quick to prepare. You might choose to get fancy and use lots of ingredients to dress it up, but some of my favorite fish recipes are really simple – and really good. Try out the recipes below. I’m sure you’ll find some keepers!