Taandori Salmon and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

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 Spice up your salmon dinner with taandori spiced salmon filets and a creamy cucumber yogurt sauce. 

Glance at my recipe index and you'll notice more than a few recipes featuring superfoods.  There are green leafies galore.  I've cooked all sorts of whole grains, some familiar, some new.  There's some trendy superfoods.  Antioxidant rich berries have sweetened up dessert.  And or course there's avocado.

I recently realized my blog is devoid of a recipe for what's possibly the most ubiquitous superfood - wild salmon.  My bad, guys.  Hopefully today's fabulous recipe makes up for it.   

When you hear wild salmon, I'm guessing omega 3s come to mind.  It should.  A 3-ounce portion of wild salmon contains over 2 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. 

I think the discovery of the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids is an interesting story.  Err, interesting to this nerd.  They were first discovered by a Danish epidemiologist, who noticed very low rates of heart disease among Greenland Eskimos, despite higher rates of obesity, smoking and alcohol use.  Their diet consisted mainly of foods like fatty fish, seal and whale blubber, all omega 3 rich foods.  Whale blubber as the next health trend?  Let's stick with the fish.

Omega 3s are best known for their role in heart disease prevention.  The mechanisms by which omega 3 fats prevent heart disease clearly demonstrates the complex process of heart disease, which is often just thought of as the product of chronic high cholesterol.  Part of the heart healthy benefit of omega 3s is due to it's ability to thin the blood, which reduces the likelihood of a plaque forming.  Omega 3 fatty acids are also powerful at reducing triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood.  Being a liquid fat, omega 3s help keep blood vessels fluid and flexible when they are incorporated into blood vessel walls, thereby reducing the risk of a plaque rupturing to cause a heart attack or stroke.  Omega 3s have incredible anti-inflammatory properties.  Although you don't hear much about heart disease and inflammation, more and more research shows it is an underlying cause

What's more interesting about omega 3s is the multiple conditions they seem to benefit.

Depression: A link between omega 3 fats and reduced rates of depression first became apparent when epidemiological studies found a significantly lower rate of depression in countries with higher intake of omega 3s.  This link has recently been strengthened by research has indicating omega 3s may be a helpful adjuct treatment for depression and bipolar disorder.  Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease that attacks joints.  Being an inflammatory disease, it seems only natural to look at omega 3s as a possible treatment.  Although omega 3s do not seem to slow the progression of the disease, they do seem to reduce symptoms including stiffness and pain.  Studies also link fatty fish intake to a reduced risk of developing the debilitating disease.  Dementia: Omega 3s = brain food.  Studies indicate a diet high in omega 3s is associated with a lower risk of dementia.  Other studies indicate supplementation with omega 3s may slow the progression of dementia, as it seems to limit the production of amyloid plaques characteristic of the disease.  Asthma: Asthma isn't a disease that's typically thought of as nutrition related, but more and more research points to dietary factors.  Studies have found a relationship between omega 3 intake of risk of asthma.  Omega 3s seem to be especially helpful for asthmatic athletes, who run the risk of airway hyperresponsiveness after strenuous exercise.  Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for people over 50 years old.  Eating fatty fish seems to reduce your risk.  Move over carrots!  Brain development: Omega 3's are crucial for a child's brain development.  I would love to write a neat little description of how omega 3s function in brain development, but to be honest, everything I've read is so complicated it goes completely over my head - and I made an A in Developmental Psychology!  Just know omega 3s are good for your child's brain. Cancer: Although fish oil supplements recently came into question in regards to prostate cancer, intake of fatty fish is linked to a reduced risk of oral, skin, prostate and breast cancer.  

 

Now, to the million dollar question: to supplement, or not to supplement?  To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve worked out my full opinion on that one.  On one hand, it can be difficult to consume adequate amounts of omega 3s.  Many of the therapeutic benefits are seen at higher doses that would require a supplement to meet.  On the other hand, I’m always hesitant about consuming a nutrient from a supplement rather than food.  In the past, nutrition was always studied by examining nutrients, but we consume foods, not nutrients.  There are so many different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and nutrients that interact in foods, so isolating a nutrient rarely has the same beneficial effect.  This is likely the reason research shows a strong correlation between fatty fish consumption and chronic disease prevention, but more scattered on the benefits of supplements. 
So what do I do?  For me, it's food first.  I aim to eat fatty fish about once or twice a week.  And even though vegetarian sources of omega 3s may not be as potent, I sneak them into my diet as often as possible.  Furthermore, healthy basics like green leafy vegetables, beans, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains and berries contain small amounts.  Since these foods make up a huge percent of my diet, it adds up to a pretty significant amount.  For example, a cup of berries with breakfast, a cup of cooked spinach at lunch and a cup of bean chili at dinner adds almost 1,000 mg of omega 3s, the same amount as an ounce and a half of wild salmon.  If I did have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis or asthma, I would take a low dose fish oil supplement.  As always, if considering starting a new supplement, talk to your doctor first.  Many supplements interact with prescription and over the counter medications, so make sure your provider is aware.      

 

Omega 3 food sources:

Animal sources: Check out the Monterrey bay aquarium’s guidefor sustainable seafood choices
-          Wild salmon
-          Mackerel
-          Herring
-          Sardines 
-          Trout
-          Tuna
-          Anchovies
-          Grass-fed meat & dairy
-          Free-range eggs
Vegetable sources:
-          Walnuts
-          Flaxseed
-          Canola oil & flaxseed oil
-          Hemp seeds & hemp oil
-          Chia seeds
-          Seaweed

 

Taandori Salmon and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: 4
Adapted from [url href="http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/quick-salmon-tikka-with-cucumber-yoghurt-17-minutes"]Jamie Oliver[/url]. I served this with a[url href="http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/courgette-salad-with-mint-garlic-red-chilli-lemon-and-extra-virgin-olive-oil/#P4rO5FQeuGzMzZvc.97"] simple, grilled zucchini salad[/url], also from Jamie Oliver. Except I forgot the mint. Don't forget the mint.
Ingredients
  • 4 100% whole wheat naan breads
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup nonfat or lowfat, pain yogurt (Greek if you prefer a thicker sauce)
  • 1 lb wild salmon, cut into four peices
  • 4 teaspoons tandoori powder or paste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Brush the naan breads with extra virgin olive oil. I sprinkled mine with a little spicy olive oil seasoning, but you could leave them plain or sprinkle with fresh garlic. Place in the toaster oven and warm through.
  2. Place half the chili, cucumber and garlic in a small bowl. Add juice of half a lemon and the yogurt. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Rub the salmon with tandoori spice on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
  4. Add each piece of salmon, skin side up to the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes. Flip and cook about 2 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish.
  5. Garnish with the remaining minced chili, cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with naan breads and cucumber-yogurt sauce.

 

 

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