Tasty Tuesday: Nutrition With Serious Legs

I love food. I mean -- really, really love food. The amount of times a day I spend thinking about food and it's beautiful possibilities on a plate is incalculable. Even more marvelous (if that is possible) than the enjoyment of tasting and savoring food, is what it can do for your health -- and therefore, happiness -- when you eat the foods with the proper nourishment for your one, irreplaceable body. So, on any random Tuesday, I will be discussing different aspects of a variety of foods for you to not only enjoy, but fuel your body's health. Bon Appetit!



Gourmet That's Good for You

Balancing your nutrients in exciting ways can be tricky -- Especially for the more adventurous foodies. That swanky, new restaurant opened up downtown, and not only has everyone been there except you, but no one will stop raving about it, either. To make matters worse, you've spent hours salivating over the place's online menu and perfectly plated photographs.


Much to your dismay, there is nothing similar on the menu that matches your usual meal plan. Not that you wanted to have chicken breast with steamed broccoli... again. And all the exotic stuff that catches your eye... Well, that fancy stuff can't possibly be good for you, right?


Popping up in fine dining restaurants all over are different preparations of octopus. While a more recent trend in the United States, people all over the world, especially in the Mediterranean and in East Asia, have been feasting on them for centuries.


Perhaps you can't imagine taking one bite of this eight-legged protein source, or maybe you can't wait for the experience. Clearly if you are a vegan or vegetarian, I'll never convince you to give it a whirl. For the rest of you, however, here are the nutritional facts -- and a tasty preparation -- to whet your octopus appetite:



Here's Why Octopus is Good for Your Body:

Octopus, like nearly all seafood, is lean and low in calories. A 4 ounce serving of octopus has approximately:

  • 185 calories

  • 34 grams of protein

  • 5 grams of carbohydrates

  • Less than 3 grams of fat

Octopus is full of several key nutrients, including trace minerals and vitamin B-12. Assuming your preparation and accoutrements of octopus is fairly low in fat, you've got yourself one tasty and healthy seafood dish.


Vitamin B-12

Octopus provides an entire daily requirement of vitamin B-12 -- essential for metabolism, creating new red blood cells, and supporting everyday brain functions. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, at least 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 is required each day. A 4ounce serving of octopus provides more than 40 micrograms. By the way, because your body excretes excess amounts through urination, there are no adverse effects from consuming additional amounts of B-12.


Iron

Naturally high in iron, octopus provides all the necessary iron for men, and nearly half the recommended amount for women. As a trace mineral, you need only small amounts of iron each day. Iron is a carrier of oxygen and transports oxygen to cells, tissues, and vital organs. Iron is also essential to cell growth. It is suggested that men need 8 milligrams of daily iron, while women require 18 milligrams. A 4 ounce portion of octopus provides more than 10 milligrams.


Selenium

Octopus provides more than the daily recommended amount of selenium. As a trace mineral, selenium plays an important role in protein metabolism during digestion. It also acts as an antioxidant by ridding your body of damaging free radicals. When free radicals scavenge through your system, they feed on healthy cells and increase your risk of chronic diseases. Antioxidants, like selenium, protect cells by neutralizing free radicals. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, our body requires 55 micrograms of selenium daily. A 4 ounce serving of octopus contains about 94 micrograms.

“Octopuses are tough--and not just in the sense that they can take out sharks (both real and computer generated, as in Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus). They're almost pure muscle. With tridirectional muscles in the arms, they're a tad less supple than a well-marbled sirloin, to say the least (though certainly a lot more healthful). So over the centuries, people have been finding ways to make them a little easier on the jaw.” ~ Katherine Harmon Courage, Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea


Here's How to Make Octopus Extra Healthy & Delicious:

Be sure to thoroughly clean the octopus prior to cooking. If your fish monger has not done already done so for you, remove the inedible parts: eyes, beak, tentacles, intestines, and ink sac. To remove any sand particles, thoroughly wash the octopus.


To keep unwanted and and calories down, avoid frying or sauteing in butter. Instead, use small amounts of olive oil. Grilling is also a good healthy option that can add a lovely smoke flavor. For the most supple, flavorful octopus, my favorite method is a careful, savory braising:


For a couple pounds of octopus tentacles, combine 2 quarts of water in a deep skillet with mirepoix vegetables (onion, garlic, celery, carrots) add some parsley, Spanish chorizo, cayenne, and salt for flavor. Bring to a boil and simmer covered over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Dip the octopus into the hot liquid, remove and dip again. And then cover partially and simmer over low heat for about 1 1/2 hour, or until tender. The octopus should then slowly cool in the braising liquid.


Chateau Harrell -- Octopus a la Plancha (as pictured):

Here's how I like to finish off my octopus: Mix a little olive oil with smoked paprika and rub over the cooked octopus, In a skillet over high heat with olive oil, cook octopus until browned. Salt to taste.


I like to accompany the octopus with a roasted garlic chick pea mash, garnished with a bit of diced Spanish chorizo. I then finished the plate with a smoked paprika infused olive oil. Here's my latest tasting review of it -- the next best thing to a standing ovation, I'd say:



A great meal should satisfy both your nutritional needs and your tastebuds. So go ahead -- Play with your food.


~ Dolores Harrell, CHC, CPT, CN, TES

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