This is the latest installment in my ongoing series of recipe posts designed to help people overcome their aversion to oily fish.

Why am I trying so hard to entice you to eat oily fish? Because it’s the single best way to get omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

These fatty acids are essential for brain health, cardiovascular function, eye health, and for reducing inflammation in the body. “Essential” means “absolutely necessary; extremely important,” according to Oxford Languages. The opposite of “optional.”

Although plant foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and soybeans also contain a type of omega-3 fat (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA in the body is limited and variable. Research suggests that the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is relatively low, with estimates typically ranging from 5% to 10% for EPA and 2% to 5% for DHA.

Several factors influence the conversion efficiency, including genetics (individuals vary in their ability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA), nutrient status (adequate levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and zinc, are necessary for the optimal conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA), dietary factors (diets high in omega-6 fatty acids — a.k.a. the Standard American Diet — may compete with ALA for the same conversion enzymes, potentially reducing the efficiency of conversion) and health status (certain health conditions, such as metabolic disorders, inflammation, and insulin resistance may impair the body’s ability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA).

So could you just take a fish oil capsule and get your EPA and DHA that way? Sure, that’s an option — though not my favorite.

For one, oily fish contains not only omega-3 fatty acids but also other important compounds that are largely absent from fish oil capsules, such as:

  • Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in certain types of fatty fish, such as salmon and trout. It belongs to the carotenoid family and has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory effects, reducing markers of inflammation in various studies.
  • Vitamin D: Fatty fish are one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D has been linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and autoimmune diseases. It modulates the immune system and helps regulate inflammatory processes in the body.
  • Protein: Fatty fish are rich in high-quality protein, which is essential for tissue repair and immune function. Adequate protein intake is associated with reduced inflammation and improved immune response.
  • Taurine is an amino acid found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce inflammation in various experimental models.
  • Selenium is an essential mineral with antioxidant properties. Selenium has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by reducing oxidative stress and modulating immune function.
  • Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium has anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
  • Zinc is another essential mineral that plays a role in immune function and inflammation regulation. Zinc deficiency is associated with increased inflammation, and adequate zinc intake may help mitigate inflammatory processes.

Another reason I’m not super keen on fish oil supplements is that their quality and purity can vary greatly. Some fish oil supplements have been found to contain contaminants such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins.

Another concern is that highly polyunsaturated fish oils are prone to oxidation, especially when exposed to heat, light, and air. In a 2015 study conducted by researchers in New Zealand, two-thirds of the 32 products tested (well before their “best-by” date) not only contained less EPA and DHA than was marked on the label, but the vast majority of supplements exceeded recommended levels of oxidation. Oxidation can produce harmful compounds that may negate the potential health benefits and even pose health risks.

What’s more, some people experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as fishy aftertaste, burping, indigestion, or diarrhea when taking fish oil supplements; this rarely happens after eating fish.

Lastly, fish oil supplements may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners (such as warfarin) and some medications for high blood pressure. They may also increase the risk of atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids, researchers found recently.

So unless you have a fish allergy or a severe and immutable aversion to fish, I would respectfully suggest that you give oily fish another try. Maybe this recipe will help — I have designed it so the powerful aromas of orange juice & zest, tamari, ginger, and garlic mask even the faintest whiff of fishiness.

Orange & Ginger Glazed Salmon

Keyword: 30 Minutes Max., Dairy-Free (or can be), Fish & Seafood, Gluten-Free (or can be), Keto (or can be), Low-Carb
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 357kcal
Citrusy, gingery, quick & easy -- the perfect weeknight meal
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 24 oz salmon fillet fresh or defrosted; cut into 4 equal portions
  • 1 tsp orange zest finely zested (Microplane grater); use untreated (organic) orange and wash before zesting
  • 3 oranges juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced (I use a Microplane zester)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger finely grated (again, Microplane zester to the rescue)
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium tamari tamari is gluten-free soy sauce; regular soy sauce works, too; if you don't have reduced-sodium soy sauce, start with 1 tbsp and add a little more if needed
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds black and/or white -- whatever you have to hand
  • 2 scallions (green onions) green parts only; thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Season on both sides with salt & pepper.
  • Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side; use kitchen tongs to turn. (I use a ceramic skillet; if you use a stainless steel skillet, cook at lower heat to prevent the fish from sticking and falling apart when turning. If the fish sticks to your skillet, remove the skillet from the heat for 1-2 minutes to let it cool; allowing the fish to come unstuck.)
  • Once the salmon is cooked, transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and saute the minced garlic and ginger in the pan for 30 seconds, stirring steadily. Add orange juice, honey, tamari, and orange zest. Stir to combine.
  • Bring back to a bubble over medium heat and cook for around 5 minutes to reduce the sauce until it is thick and syrupy and has roughly halved in volume.
  • Add the salmon back to the pan and spoon the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle with black & white sesame seeds and sliced green onions and serve immediately, accompanied by a vegetable, salad, or a starchy side.

Notes

This recipe also works well with extra-firm tofu or boneless, skinless chicken thighs (though the latter need to be cooked longer than salmon). 

Nutrition

Calories: 357kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 365mg | Potassium: 1082mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 351IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 90mg | Iron: 2mg