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Eat Smaller Fish for Their Healthful Properties

Eat Smaller Fish for Their Healthful Properties

Chicago Tribune

Big is better, we’ve long been told, especially when it comes to food. Super-size this, double that, pile the trimmings high. Smaller, however, is increasingly proving to be smarter, more sustainable and equally satisfying when it comes to seafood.

Eco-conscious top chefs and home cooks are turning to smaller and lesser-known fish not only for environmental and health reasons but because they taste good. In so doing, they’re reviving interest in sardines, anchovies and herring _ a fish trio long historically popular but also a nose-wrinkler for a good part of the past century.

Sardines particularly have taken off with chefs. They’re turning up on menus across the country.

“Everyone says they have to be politically correct and have to use underutilized species. We say, sardines,” said Polly Legendre, culinary director of Clean Fish, a San Francisco company hooking up sustainably run fisheries around the world with American chefs and consumers.

“The sardine is one of the easiest fish to use,” she added. “You can grill it, you can do fresh preparations, you can find recipes for it, and it’s cheap.”

Legendre’s job is to change how chefs and consumers think about seafood, moving them toward underutilized fish and eco-friendly fisheries.

“Some people are saying, ‘Guess we can’t eat our tuna or salmon anymore. Guess we have to eat sardines?’ What do you mean have to eat? It’s fun,” she exclaimed. “If you get some fresh sardines, enjoy them. They’re fabulous.”

Oily fish such as sardines, herrings and anchovies also generate interest because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, according to Kate McLaughlin, seafood program director for the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group based in East Norwich, N.Y.

Being low on the food chain and living on a diet of plankton, zooplankton and tiny fish, they also carry few of the metals and toxins found in the tissues of larger species. They live relatively short lives and reproduce prodigiously, keeping stocks high.

McLaughlin and Legendre agree the growing consumer buzz on sardines, herring and anchovies is being driven by chefs.

“People will look to a chef, look for guidance, look for OK-ness,” Legendre said.

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