Bring this healthy tradition to your holiday table
With the holiday season well underway, no doubt you are enjoying your share of treats you can only get this time of year.
'Tis the season for peppermint mocha, gingerbread, cookie swaps, and Aunt Flora's fruit cake. And while these are all delicious customs, they're more or less the equivalent of a sugar bomb.
But this season's eatings don't have to be unhealthy.
In fact, this is the perfect time to remember an incredibly healthful Old World tradition: The Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Festa dei sette pesci, as it's known in Italian, is an elaborate multi-course seafood meal that, historically, Italian families would enjoy on Christmas Eve.
And today, it's a nice, Paleo-friendly alternative to the baked ham dinner that so many American families indulge in this time of year.
Traditionally, different kinds of fish are prepared in seven different ways -- and while that might sound like A LOT of work, the benefits you'll get are worth the extra effort.
If you've been reading my eTips for a while now, you know that fish that contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and mackerel reduce inflammation.
Omega-3s can also reduce your risk of having a heart attack -- and if you DO have a heart attack, they can significantly reduce your risk of dying from it.
Studies have shown that getting enough fish oil in your diet can actually prevent your brain from shrinking -- and, as a result, seniors who eat plenty of omega-3s perform better on cognitive tests.
They can even protect your eyesight!
Now, you don't have to be Italian (or Italian-American) to enjoy some fish around the holidays -- and you don't have to stick to the number seven.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate seafood into your seasonal offerings:
- Don't overdo it. "Seven fishes" doesn't mean seven meal-size portions of fish in one sitting. This fishy feast usually takes place over the course of a few hours, and several fishes can be incorporated into one dish, like a fish stew.
- Choose wild-caught fish, which don't have any artificial colorings and pack the biggest nutritional punch.
- Serve shrimp cocktail, which will get your guests snacking while the rest of the fish are cooking. Shrimp is also high in magnesium, which is a critical nutrient for maintaining heart health, as well as vitamin E. This shellfish also gets its pink hue from a carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin, which has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone."
- Shuck some oysters, which are high in immunity-boosting zinc. They can also give you a necessary supply of copper, a trace mineral that helps keep your weight in check.
- Fire up the grill, a great way to cook your fish without excess oils, flavorings, or sauces needed. You can do it even if it's cold outside -- but if you're sacked with a blizzard, try baking, poaching, or steaming your fish instead of frying it.
However you decide to prepare your feast, just remember it's all about family and togetherness.
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