Scallops are a very good source of a very important nutrient for cardiovascular health, vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is needed by the body to convert homocysteine, a chemical that can directly damage blood vessel walls, into other benign chemicals. Since high levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, it’s a good idea to be sure that your diet contains plenty of vitamin B12 to help keep homocysteine levels low. Homocysteine is also associated with osteoporosis, and a recent study found that osteoporosis occurred more frequently among women whose vitamin B12 was deficient or marginal compared with those who had normal B12 intake. Four ounces of scallops contains 33.3% of the daily value for vitamin B12.
In addition to their B12, scallops are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and potassium, three other nutrients that provide significant benefits for the cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fats keep your blood flowing smoothly by preventing the formation of blood clots. Magnesium helps out by causing blood vessels to relax, thus helping to lower blood pressure while improving blood flow. Potassium helps to maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Increases Heart Rate Variability-A Measure of Heart Muscle Function
One of the ways in which consuming fish rich in omega-3 fats, such as scallops, promotes cardiovascular health is by increasing heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of cardiac function, in as little as three weeks, according to a study published in the April 2005 issue of Chest.
By providing greater variability between beats, the marine omega3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, reduce the risk of arrhythmia and/or sudden death.
Researchers from Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, and Cuernavaca, Mexico, took the HRV of 58 elderly patients every other day for two months to establish an HRV baseline for each participant. For the next11 weeks, half of the study participants took a daily 2 gram supplement of fish oil and the other half took a daily 2 gram supplement of soy oil.
Patients in both groups experienced a significant increase in HRV, with those who took fish oil achieving a greater increase in a shorter time period. Patients who received fish oil experienced increased HRV within the first 2.7 weeks, whereas it took 8.1 weeks for a significant increase in HRV to be seen in the group taking soy oil.
On the other hand, while none of the study participants experienced significant negative side effects, 41% of participants in the fish oil group reported belching, compared to 16% in the soy oil group.
“Our findings contradict the current belief in the medical community that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids produces only long-term cardiac benefits,” said the study’s lead author, Fernando Holguin, MD, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. “In fact, our study group showed improvements in heart function in as little as two weeks.”
“Studies like this demonstrate that there are additional approaches we can take to protect ourselves from heart attacks,” said Paul A. Kvale, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. “It’s exciting to see the potential for omega-3 fatty acids in improving heart function when it complements a healthy lifestyle of exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting eight hours of sleep. “We’d add eating healthful foods to this proactive list. Rather than pop a daily pill, we’d rather enjoy a daily “dose” of delicious scallops, soy foods, or tuna. For recipes certain to not only increase your heart rate variability but also your delight in eating, click Recipes.
Protection against Stroke
Eating fish, such as scallops, as little as 1 to 3 times per month may protect against ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain, for example, as a result of a blood clot),suggests a meta-analysis of 8 studies published in the July 2004 issue of Stroke.
Data on nine independent groups participating in eight different studies found that, compared to those who never consumed fish or ate fish less than once per month, risk of ischemic stroke dropped:
* 9% in those eating fish 1 to 3 times per month
* 13% in those eating fish once per week
* 18% in those eating fish 2 to 4 times per week
* 31% in those eating fish 5 or more times each week
Eating fish daily provides substantial protection against heart attack
While as little as a weekly serving of fish lowers risk of ischemic stroke, enjoying a daily serving omega-3-rich fish, such as scallops, provides significantly greater reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease than eating fish even as frequently as a couple of times a week, show the findings of a study published in the January 17, 2006 issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers in Japan followed 41,578 men and women aged 40 to59, none of whom had cardiovascular disease or cancer when the study began, from 1990-1992 to 2001. Food frequency questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and in 1995, provided information on weekly fish intake, which was analyzed for omega-3 content.
When individuals whose fish consumption was in the top one-fifth of participants at 8 times per week were compared to those whose intake was in the lowest fifth at once per week, they were found to have a 37% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and a 56%percent lower risk of heart attack.
When the effect of omega-3 fatty acid intake on cardiovascular risk was analyzed, coronary heart disease risk was lowered by 42% among those whose intake was the highest at 2.1 grams per day or more compared to those whose intake was the lowest at 300 milligrams per day. Those whose intake of omega 3s was in the top fifth received a 65%reduction in the risk of heart attack compared to those whose omega 3intake was lowest.
The authors theorize that daily fish consumption is highly protective largely due to the resulting daily supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which not only reduce platelet aggregation, but also decrease the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes. Lowering leukotrienes reduces damage to the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels), a key factor in the development of atherosclerosis. “Our results suggest that a high fish intake may add a further beneficial effect for the prevention of coronary heart disease among middle-aged persons,” note the study’s authors.
Broiled or Baked–Not Fried–Scallops
Reduce Risk of Atrial Fibrillation (Heart Arrhythmia)
Eating scallops that are broiled or baked, but not fried, may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, especially in the elderly, according to a Harvard study published in the July 2004 issue of Circulation. In the 12-year study of 4,815 people 65 years of age or older, eating canned tuna or other broiled or baked fish 1 to 4 times a week correlated with increased blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a 28%lower risk of atrial fibrillation. Eating broiled or baked fish 5 times a week lowered risk even more- a drop in atrial fibrillation risk of 31%.
Eating fried fish, however, provided no similar protection. Not only is fried fish typically made from lean fish like cod and Pollack that provide fewer omega-3 fatty acids, but in addition, frying results in the production of damaged, free-radical-laden fats in the fish as well as the frying oil.
In further research to determine if the omega-3 fats found in fish oil were responsible for fish’s beneficial effects on the heart’s electrical circuitry, Dariush Mozaffarian and colleagues from Harvard Medical School analyzed data on fish intake and electrocardiogram results from 5096 adults, aged 65 or older, who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Study from 1989-1990.
Eating tuna or other broiled or baked fish at least once a week was associated with lower heart rate (-3.2 beats/minute) and a 50%lower likelihood of prolonged ventricular repolarisation (the period of time it takes the heart to recharge after it beats, so it can beat again), compared to those consuming fish less than once a month.
Consuming 1 gram/day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish was associated with 2.3 beats/minutes lower heart rate and a 46% lower risk of prolonged ventricular repolarisation. Eating fish at least 5 times per week was associated with an even healthier heart rhythm. However, eating fried fish (typically sold in the U.S. as fish burgers or fish sticks) was not associated with increased blood levels of omega 3 fats or any beneficial electrocardiogram results. In fact, a previous study led by the same researcher (Mozaffarian, Am J Cardiol 2006 Jan) found that while eating baked or broiled fish was linked to a slower but more powerful heartbeat and lower blood pressure, eating fried fish was associated with heart muscle motion abnormalities, a reduced ejection fraction, lower cardiac output, and higher blood pressure. Since irregular heart beats are a major precipitating factor in sudden death due to cardiac arrest, promoting a healthy heart rhythm by eating baked or broiled-not fried-fish several times a week makes very good sense. Happily, as our recipes, such as our serving ideas for scallops (immediately below)show, it’s a quick, easy and most importantly, delicious prescription.
Fish, Fruit and Vegetables Protect against Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism
Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition in which blood clots develop in the deep veins of the legs, thighs or pelvis, causing swelling and pain. An embolism is created if a part or all of the blood clot in the deep vein breaks off from the site where it was created and moves through the venous system. If the clot lodges in the lung, a very serious condition, pulmonary embolism, arises.
Fortunately, a healthy way of eating offers significant protection, as demonstrated by a prospective study over 12 years that involved almost 15,000 middle-aged adults. While those eating the most red and processed meat doubled their risk of deep vein thrombosis(DVT), those in the upper 3 quintiles of fruit and vegetable intake had a 41-53% lower risk of DVT. And those eating fish at least once each week were found to have a 30-45% lower DVT risk. (Steffen LM, Folsom AR, et al.,Circulation)Practical Tip: For protection against deep vein thrombosis, increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables; eat fish at least once a week; and decrease consumption of red and processed meats.
Protection Against Cancer
A high intake of vitamin B12 has also been shown to be protective against colon cancer. Vitamin B12 helps to protect the cells of the colon from mutations as a result of cancer-causing chemicals – another good reason to eat plenty of vitamin B12. So add scallops, a very good source of protein and vitamin B12, to your list of healthy seafood and enjoy.
A Canadian study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers (Fritschi L, Ambrosini GL, et al.) suggests that eating fish frequently may provide serious protection against three types of cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Researchers compared the diets of almost 3,000 individuals with these cancers to those of 4,200healthy controls. People who ate the most fish and who got most of their total fat calories from fish were 28% less likely to have leukemia, 36% less likely to have multiple myeloma, and 29% less likely to have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Fish and Whole Grains Highly Protective against Childhood Asthma
According to the American Lung Association, almost 20 million Americans suffer from asthma, which is reported to be responsible for over 14 million lost school days in children, and an annual economic cost of more than $16.1 billion.
Increasing consumption of whole grains and fish could reduce the risk of childhood asthma by about 50%, suggests the International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood (Tabak C, Wijga AH, Thorax).
The researchers, from the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Utrecht University, University Medical Center Groningen, used food frequency questionnaires completed by the parents of 598 Dutch children aged 8-13 years. They assessed the children’s consumption of a range of foods including fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grain products. Data on asthma and wheezing were also assessed using medical tests as well as questionnaires.
While no association between asthma and intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products was found (a result at odds with other studies that have supported a link between antioxidant intake, particularly vitamins C and E, and asthma), the children’s intake of both whole grains and fish was significantly linked to incidence of wheezing and current asthma.
In children with a low intake of fish and whole grains, the prevalence of wheezing was almost 20%, but was only 4.2% in children with a high intake of both foods. Low intake of fish and whole grains also correlated with a much higher incidence of current asthma (16.7%).compared to only a 2.8% incidence of current asthma among children with a high intake of both foods.
After adjusting results for possible confounding factors, such as the educational level of the mother, and total energy intake, high intakes of whole grains and fish were found to be associated with a 54 and 66% reduction in the probability of being asthmatic, respectively.
The probability of having asthma with bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR), defined as having an increased sensitivity to factors that cause narrowing of the airways, was reduced by 72 and 88% when children had a high-intake of whole grains and fish, respectively. Lead researcher, Cora Tabak commented, “The rise in the prevalence of asthma in western societies may be related to changed dietary habits. “We agree. The Standard American Diet is sorely deficient in the numerous anti-inflammatory compounds found in fish and whole grains, notably, the omega-3 fats supplied by cold water fish and the magnesium and vitamin E provided by whole grains. One caution: wheat may need to be avoided as it is a common food allergen associated with asthma.
Scallops are mollusks that have two beautiful convexly ridged, or scalloped, shells. Their two-part shell is why scallops are viewed by marine scientists as bi-valve mollusks. The part of the scallop that is generally consumed is the “nut,” the white muscle that opens and closes the two shells. It has a soft, fleshy texture and a delicate flavor that may be mild or briny depending upon the variety. The “coral,” the reproductive glands, are also edible, although they are not widely consumed in North America.
In the United States, the most widely available types of scallops include the Atlantic deep-sea scallop and the bay scallop. The flesh of the sea scallop is large, usually about one-and-a-half inches in diameter, while the bay scallop is tiny, averaging about one-half ofan inch in diameter. In Europe, the most popular type is the great scallop, more commonly called Coquille St Jacques. Several hundred different species of scallops are found worldwide, in shallow areas of most seas. The Latin name of the common bay scallop is Agropecten irradians.
People have been enjoying scallops as a food ever since this beautiful mollusk appeared in the Earth’s waters, basically since time immemorial.
The great scallop gained great prestige during the medieval era. Pilgrims visiting the shrine of St. James in Spain began to use empty scallop shells for both eating and begging. The scallop and its shell quickly became a symbol of this magnificent shrine with people using them to decorate their doorways as well as their coats of arms. In honor of the shrine, they were called the shell of St. James, now best known by their translated French name of Coquille St. Jacques.
Scallops are found in many waters throughout the world. The great scallop is abundant in the Mediterranean, while the sea and bay scallop are found concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean off North America.
How to Select and Store
Just as with any seafood, it is best to purchase scallops from a store that has a good reputation for having a fresh supply of fish. Get to know the person who sells the fish at the store so that you can have a trusted resource from whom you can purchase your seafood.
Since scallops are extremely perishable, they are usually shelled, washed and frozen, or packed in ice, as soon as they are caught.
Fresh scallops should have flesh that is white and firm and have no evidence of browning. Frozen scallops should be solid and shiny, and the inside of their packaging should be free of frost. If you are planning on freezing the scallops, make sure to ask the fish seller whether they are fresh or defrosted (if it is not clearly marked) since you will need to cook previously frozen scallops before refreezing.
Smell is a good indicator of freshness with fresh scallops being either odorless or having a slightly sweet scent. Since a slightly “off” smell cannot be detected through plastic, if you have the option, purchase displayed scallops as opposed to those that are prepackaged. Once the fishmonger (fish seller) wraps and hands you the scallops that you have selected, smell them through the paper wrapping and return them if they do not smell right.
When storing all types of seafood, including scallops, it is important to keep it cold since seafood is very sensitive to temperature. Therefore, after purchasing scallops or other seafood, make sure to return it to a refrigerator as soon as possible. If the scallops are going to accompany you during a day full of errands, keep a cooler in the car where you can place the scallops to make sure they stay cold and do not spoil.
The temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing seafood. Therefore, to ensure maximum freshness and quality, it is important to use special storage methods so as to create the optimal temperature for holding the scallops. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place the scallops, which have been well wrapped, in a baking dish filled with ice. The baking dish and scallops should then be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, which is its coolest area. Replenish the ice one or two times per day. Scallops can be refrigerated for up to two days, although they should be purchased as close to being served as possible.
You can extend the shelf life of scallops by freezing them. To do so, wrap them well in plastic and place them in the coldest part of the freezer where they will keep for about three months. To defrost frozen scallops, place them in milk (or water) that has been boiled and removed from the heat. Alternatively, they can be placed in the refrigerator to defrost.
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