This is a simple, flavorful salmon dish that takes minimal prep time so it is perfect for a weeknight dinner. The only real preparation is slicing an onion and I usually do this ahead of time. Then, when we get home from Tae Kwon Do or the park, I can throw everything together while the oven is warming up, bake it for 20 minutes and serve it with rice and a salad. The way it is prepared makes it easy to avoid the onions – Lucas leaves them off, but his little sister chows them down like there’s no tomorrow. (By the way, both onions and salmon are anti-asthmatic.)
Having such an easy way to prepare salmon makes me cook this superfood more often. When I eat a few servings in a week, I notice that I am calmer and more clear-minded. (Really, I do!) And there is good reason for this.
The omega-3 DHA, found abundantly in salmon, is the framework of our minds.
Fats are the building blocks of the brain, just like protein is to muscles and calcium is to bones. In fact, fat makes up 60 percent of the brain. The “thinking part” of our brains (the gray matter) is composed almost entirely of one specific type of fatty acid called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Yes, DHA is literally the framework of our minds! And since the body does not effectively synthesize this fatty acid, it is an essential part of our diet.
It’s easy to see why DHA is being added to baby foods, formula, Horizon Organic milk, soy milk and OB recommended prenatal vitamins. It’s critical for everyone, but especially for babies and children with their rapidly developing minds.
Most Americans are sorely deficient in omega 3’s.
Many experts believe that insufficient levels of omega 3 is the number one dietary deficiency in America today.
There are two reasons for this. (1) Most people do not eat enough omega-3-rich foods. And (2) people consume an overabundance of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6’s are found in meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, refined oils, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies and chips.
Have you heard of the omega-6:3 ratio? It’s one measure of whether or not you are getting a healthy balance of fats. The ideal omega-6:3 ratio ranges from 1:1 to 3:1, but Americans average 10 or 20:1 (and I’ve read as high as 50:1). Yikes!
Excess omega 6’s floating around in the body will actually compete with any omega 3’s that are consumed, crowding them out and compounding the negative effects of eating an unhealthy balance of fats.
It’s not that omega-6 fatty acids are in themselves bad – they are an essential part of a balanced diet. But most people need to pull in the reins on their omega-6 intake (particularly processed foods) and focus more on omega 3’s.
Symptoms of omega-3 deficiency can include:
- dull, dry skin
- frequent illness
- difficulty concentrating
- hyperactivity in children
- poor quality of sleep
- joint pain
How can you get more DHA into your diet?
- Make fish a regular part of your meal rotation, especially wild salmon (fresh, frozen, canned and smoked are all good choices), herring, sardines, black cod and light (not white) tuna. And yes, it’s important to buy wild as opposed to farm-raised salmon for numerous reasons.
- Replace feedlot beef with grassfed, which contains more omega-3’s.
- If you are vegetarian/vegan, up your intake of the omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which your body can convert into DHA. It is found in walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans and green vegetables such as spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts. ALA-to-DHA conversion is a highly delicate process, so it’s wise to eat an overall healthy diet to support it. Minimize stress, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and other culprits that may interfere with conversion.
- Consider taking a quality fish oil supplement (or algae oil if you are vegetarian). If you get unpleasant “fish burps” keep your capsules in the freezer and take them frozen. Dr. Sears recommends the brand Vital Choice salmon oil and I also hear great things about fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures. If you or your kids need to mask the flavor, mix the oil into a smoothie or try Nordic Naturals or Berlean’s Fish Oil in lemon flavor.
- Drastically reduce or avoid completely refined oils such as soy, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, mixed vegetable and margarine. Besides being high in Omega 6, these oils are generally unhealthy and highly inflammatory. Use healthful oils and fats that have anti-inflammatory properties such as quality olive oil, flax oil, coconut oil, ghee and grassfed butter such as Kerrygold.
So back to the dish. I serve it with a lemon wedge which gets the kids involved and interested. And usually by dinner, my kids are ready for a substantial meal which minimizes most “salmon night” complaints.
And here’s a meal planning tip – Salmon-Bacon Kale Bowls. The next day I cook some chopped bacon or ham in a skillet and when it’s almost done I throw in chopped greens (chard, spinach or kale) and cook until they wilt. Then I add leftover flaked salmon, onions & rice to the skillet for a one-pot meal. The bacon arrests any “leftover salmon night” complaints.
(serves a family of 4-6)
4 Salmon Fillets (I get the wild frozen fillets from Costco and thaw, rinse and pat dry before baking)
1 Onion, sliced pretty thin into discs then halved
1/2 – 1 Bell Pepper, sliced (optional)
4 good pats of butter
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (400 convection). Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of a glass baking pan. Place the fillets in the pan skin-side down. Scatter the sliced onions over fish then top each fillet with a pat of butter. Season generously with salt and pepper (or try taco seasoning and make fish tacos!)
Bake for 16-20 minutes (spooning the melted butter over the fish and onions once about halfway through) until you can flake it apart with a fork but before it becomes dry. Remember, it will continue heating internally for a couple of minutes after it’s out of the oven. Serve with a wedge of lemon.