By Hara Estroff Marano, published on July 1, 2009 - last reviewed on May 20, 2013
Some foods delight with flavor, some with their nutrition. Fat-rich fish do both. Some of the sea's tastiest creatures—shrimp, Chinook salmon, sardines—are loaded not only with protein and omega-3 fatty acids but that rarity in foodstuffs, natural vitamin D.
Consider vitamin D a stealth substance—it's everywhere, but increasingly elusive. You get it from the sun; the same UVB rays that toast you also turn on manufacture of D in skin. But the public health message that sunshine leads to skin cancer has been so effective that most Americans now lack vitamin D. There is another way to get adequate vitamin D, along with myriad cofactors—from the very few foods it naturally enriches, such as specific fatty fish. Research shows that the vitamin—actually a hormone—protects multiple body systems and wards off cardiovascular and autoimmune disease as well as osteoporosis. But it may be the brain that is the biggest beneficiary of vitamin D.
The development of both autism and schizophrenia is now linked to insufficient vitamin D. Too little D in the adult brain raises the risk of stroke and dementia. The vitamin may both prevent and treat stroke; it thins the blood and protects neurons. Even mood disorders are tied to low levels of vitamin D. Experts now think the recommended intake (400 International Units) may be too low. Certainly the tastiest way to assure adequate vitamin D is to consume morsels from the sea.
Chinook salmon, 4 oz.
IUs per serving: 411
Percent DV: 102
Mackerel, 3.5 oz.
IUs per serving: 345
Percent DV: 90
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 1.75 oz.
IUs per serving: 250
Percent DV: 70
Shrimp, steamed or broiled, 3.5 oz.
IUs per serving: 161
Percent DV: 40
Milk, vitamin D fortified, 1 cup
IUs per serving: 98
Percent DV: 25
Egg, whole, boiled
IUs per serving: 20
Percent DV: 5
One-dish meals are appealing anytime, but especially in the summer. Think of this chunky soup as the equivalent of a day of sunshine.
Cook bacon over medium-high heat until the fat begins to render. Add onions, stir, and cook until soft. Add celery and bell pepper, stir, and cook until they begin to soften.
While vegetables cook, place potatoes in a saucepan with stock mixture. Bring to a boil, stir well, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add potato mixture to vegetable mixture. Add thyme and ground pepper, and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add to the chowder base the shrimp, salmon, and any liquids they have released. Cook for two minutes. Add milk, bring to a low simmer, and cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring gently. Ladle into bowls.