Disclaimer: My trip expenses were paid for by the Norwegian Seafood Export Council but I was not compensated for this post. The thoughts and opinions here are my own.
Stunning landscape. Beautiful people. Amazing seafood. All these stereotypes proved to be true on my recent visit to Norway. I was the fortunate participant of a food education trip sponsored by the Norwegian Seafood Export Council. I was among seven dietitians from all over the U.S. who spent a week in the southwest coastal towns of Bergen and Stavanger.
We learned about the sustainable practices of farm-raised salmon. Norway has put in place unique and stringent practices when it comes to producing good, clean fish. We met with researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), representatives from the Institute of Marine Research, and chefs. We even got to see a salmon farm in the clear, cold waters of the Norwegian Sea. The Norwegian fishing industry is very transparent when it comes to tracking their fish species. The NIFES website has a database of research listing all the nutrients and potential contaminants for each species. We learned that the mercury levels and other undesirables are low in most Norwegian commercial fish species (including cod and salmon.)
The take home message? The many health benefits of eating more fish greatly outweigh any potential risks.
And boy, did we enjoy the fish – at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had salmon cooked every way imaginable, cod, hake, baccala, turbot, sardines, the list goes on. I think my omega-3 levels tripled during the week.
In addition to fish, I was very interested in what the locals typically eat and was intrigued to learn that “New Nordic Cuisine” is so much more than an up and coming restaurant trend. It’s a whole movement started by local chefs and now supported by governments of Scandinavian countries to support a diet rich in root vegetables, seafood, whole grains, berries and foraged foods. It’s about eating seasonal, pure and fresh foods as a way to preserve the culture as well as the health of future generations. As the research builds, I believe we will see parallels to the health benefits of the New Nordic Diet like those of the Mediterranean Diet.
So, back to the fish. The sad fact is many Americans are not eating much of it. I’ve had people tell me they don’t like the texture, the smell or simply are unsure how to buy and prepare it. For any of those reasons, these salmon cakes are a great place to start (in fact, it’s the dish I use in this TV spot to convince FOX anchor – and Norwegian descendant – John Anderson, that he could like fish.) This recipe is a mash-up of my Russian grandmother’s cod cakes and preparation tips I learned on the trip (like never boil fish.) Besides salmon, it includes dill, potatoes and onions – all Nordic staples.
How often do you eat fish? If less than the recommended 2 times a week, what are the challenges for you?