As I was taking my daily supplements this morning, I got thinking about omega-3 – the essential fatty acids that, while needed for our bodies to work normally, are not produced by our bodies. Therefore, requiring us to consume them as part of our diets or/and in a form of supplements.
Before I move on to sharing one of my favourite omega-3 rich recipes, let me tell you a little bit more about omega-3 fatty acids. There are three types of essential fatty acids that fall into this category– EPA, DHA and ALA*. It is the EPA and DHA that are the most crucial ones to our bodies as they not only have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but, importantly, insure that cell exhibit a high levels of insulin sensitivity.
When you eat refined sugars or carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks them down into a simple sugar called glucose – our main source of energy – that is then released into the bloodstream. There are two hormones that regulate our blood glucose levels – glucagon and insulin. Glucagon helps elevate blood glucose levels when they get too low by releasing excess sugar stored in our liver into the bloodstream. In contrast, insulin – a functional protein produced and released by the pancreas – helps lower blood glucose levels when they get too high. Once insulin is released, it attaches to receptors on your muscle and fat cells and prompts them to open up and receive the nutrients (and either burn them or store them for later use). Hence, the more insulin receptive the cells are, the greater the energy production and better the control of sugar spikes in your body.
Glucose cannot be cleared from your blood stream without an adequate amount of insulin. When we eat high GI foods that result in sugar delivery in an intense short burst rather than over a span of a few hours, a high release of insulin is needed to clear glucose from the blood stream. Eating high GI foods too frequently may result in your body becoming ‘immune’ (resistant) to insulin release, resulting in high blood sugar levels and, potentially, diabetes.
Apart from paying attention minimising the amount of high-GI foods we consume, EP and DHA are crucial elements to help improve the insulin sensitivity of our cells to help maximize the efficiency of glucose absorption. And, in combination, DHA and EPA are found only in fatty fish and algae.
So fish, especially oily fish like sardines, salmon and trout**, is a great element to include in our diets – not just as a great source of lean protein, but also as a powerful source of omega-3 acids. And trout is one of my favourite fish to prepare. A cooked serving of farmed rainbow trout contains approximately 981 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acids.
The colour and flavour of the flesh of the fish depends on the diet of the trout. Farmed trout and some populations of wild trout have reddish or orange flesh as a result of high astaxanthin – a powerful antioxidant – levels in their diets.
One of my favourite ways to cook trout is to bake whole rainbow trout with some herbs and spices. A simple recipe that requires just a few ingredients and makes for a delicious weeknight dinner or even a dinner party meal (that looks the part but does not require you spending much time in the kitchen – whether it is the preparation or the clean up).
1 gutted and scaled rainbow trout (ask your fishmonger to do this)
A few slices (thin rounds) of lemon
A handful of green fennel fronds*** (you can also use dill)
Some pink peppercorns, very lightly crushed to release their flavour
Pink Himalayan salt
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Wash and dry the fish and rub inside out with a little salt. Stuff the cavity with slices of lemon, fennel fronds / dill and a few pink peppercorns. Cover the baking tray with foil and, before placing the fish onto it, I like to sit the trout on a few veg stalks – you can use some fennel stalks – to provide a little extra flavouring (this is not necessary however). Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 mins depending on the size of your fish.
When done, just peel away the skin and separate the flesh from the bones. The flesh of baked trout is so delicate and gently flavoured with the aroma of seasonings; and it flakes off the bone so easily. Sprinkle with a few pink peppercorns that you roasted the fish with and some fresh fennel fronds or chopped dill. A drizzle of your best quality olive oil and it is ready to serve.
The little jewels of pink peppercorns add beautiful specks of colour to the dish and are a stunning contrast to the bright green of fennel fronds / dill. Because they have such a delicate flavour, they don’t overpower the trout, instead lending delicate fruitiness and very gentle heat to the finial dish.
A real stress-free dish that ticks all the boxes – a beautiful, delicious, healthy meal.
*ALA is a shorter chain omega-3 fatty acid that serves as a source of energy and can be partially converted into EPA and DHA. However, the conversion process is slow and inefficient. Sources of ALA include flax seeds, walnuts and soy.
** I find it fascinating that in the northern hemisphere some trout migrate between fresh water and salt water for breeding. In Australia, on the other hand, most are restricted to fresh water. However, trout that are acclimatised to sea water at a young age may be reared in marine conditions until maturity.
*** this is a great way to use the delicate green fennel fronds when you have fresh fennel in your pantry