Why Haddock is a Nutritious Catch

Every fish has its hook and…its sinker. Some, like shrimp, are high in muscle-building protein, but then also potentially high in contaminants if farm-raised in undesirable conditions. Others, like white tuna, keep our bodies humming with energizing B vitamins, but then also give us pause with high mercury levels. Still others, like salmon, are omega-3 superstars, but then not such bigwigs on the fat and calorie front.

It’s all relative, especially when it comes to your individual needs.

Come January, with the eating season officially over and resolutions on the upswing, many of us desire to cut back on calories and feel more fit. Eating lean protein, such as fish, is universally recommended by nutritionists and leading institutions alike.

My family’s go-to fish in January (and throughout the year) is haddock. Mild-tasting and reasonably priced, this flaky white fish teems with good things. An average 3.5-oz serving has only 112 calories, scant fat, a whopping 24 grams of protein and healthy doses of three B vitamins: niacin, B6, and B12. All together, these B vitamins strengthen our immune system, convert food to energy, keep our nerves in tiptop shape and help make red blood cells.

Another nutritious hook? Haddock rocks with impressive amounts of two essential minerals: phosphorous, which helps form and maintain healthy teeth and bones; and selenium, a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and that may also prevent certain cancers.

As for mercury levels, haddock routinely makes the “lowest levels” list, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Mercury can impair the neurological brain development in fetuses, infants and children, which is why children and women of childbearing age are advised to limit their exposure to “high mercury” fish.

Wondering if haddock has any “sinkers”? Well, much like sole, snapper and flounder, haddock is no great catch when it comes to the almighty heart-healthy omega-3s. Alternating haddock with a fish that’s high in this fatty acid, like salmon, works for our family.

Helpful tips:

Fresh fish should be cooked within two days, up to three at most, from the time it was purchased (it’s best though to cook it the day you buy it).

Once cooked, any leftover fish remains good for three to four days. Frozen haddock, like other lean white fish, typically lasts between six to eight months. The key to keeping haddock’s calorie and fat content low is in its preparation: grilled, broiled or baked versus breaded and fried.

Italian-Style Baked Haddock
Adapted from Bon Appetit; serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz. pkg. sliced mushrooms, hard stems removed
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 Dorot basil cube*
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ pounds haddock fillets
1 cup shredded mozzarella or cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a nine-inch glass baking dish. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper and basil and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for five to eight minutes more, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Arrange fish in prepared dish. Pour sauce over. Sprinkle mozzarella on top. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 25 minutes.  Pair with rice or linguine. *Dorot basil cubes are a convenient, economical way to add the taste of fresh basil to dishes. They come 16 to a tray and can be found in the frozen section of most major grocery stores.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.