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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

March 12, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Oh-mega! That’s some chum

In the ongoing discussion of the plight of Yup’ik Eskimo villagers and the state of the salmon that has long been their sustenance (and their livelihood), its nice to know there’s good news coming out of the Yukon Delta. Announced today: Yukon River king and chum (keta) salmon have record levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as measured in tests recently administered by Bodycote Testing Group.

Our chum, the Yukon chum

Photo: Kwik’pak Fisheries

Those levels are twice, and in some cases three or four times that of other fish in the USDA database. After reviewing the findings, Seattle nutritionist, registered dietitian and SPU professor emerita Dr. Evette Hackman called the numbers “shocking.” Her colleague, Dr. Joyce Nettleton, nutrition consultant to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, says they’re, “astonishingly high.” Which bodes well for for my friends in the Great North, as well as for the marketing of their glorious (if too few) Yukon kings — and their delicious if under-appreciated keta counterparts.

So, why should we care? Well, according to Dr. Hackman, Ph.D, RD:

Many recent studies show associations between eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and lowering the risk or severity of many diseases. These include lowering the risk of heart disease and heart attack, lowering high blood pressure, improving the pattern of blood lipids, decreasing blood clotting factors and increasing beneficial relaxation in larger arteries and blood vessels. Several studies have shown reduced risk of cancer especially breast, prostate and colon cancer. Other associations include lowering the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, improving fetal and infant brain development, lowering the risk for depression and improving treatment for manic depression and schizophrenia.

Sounds good to me. So, where can you get your mega-omegas? At Brasa, they’re poaching Yukon chum in olive oil and serving it with shell beans, olives, fennel and celeriac puree. Elliott’s Oyster House will grill, alder-plank or pan-sear your filet. Ivar’s quick-service restaurants offers it broiled (as an entree or with Caesar salad) or fried as salmon ‘n chips. And at Whole Foods the Yukon’s chum comes smoked as “candy.”

Now, tell the truth: Which would you rather eat, fish oil in a caplet or a gorgeous piece of salmon from the Yukon (or elsewhere!), grilled, broiled, steamed, smoked or — as I’ll offer up in a another post in a bit — baked simply and elegantly in parchment paper?

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