Sardines, Bisque, and Fruit Desserts

Q: Do sardines packed in oil have additional omega-3 fatty acid content?
Q: Is bisque always a high-fat soup choice?
Q: How can I jazz up my holiday table with a low-fat, fruit-based dessert?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Do sardines packed in oil have additional omega-3 fatty acid content?
A: Omega-3 fat is a polyunsaturated fat that seems to offer protection against both heart disease and cancer. However, research suggests that most of us don’t get enough of it to provide protection. Fatty fish – including sardines – are an excellent source of omega-3 fat. Fish oil has also been garnering attention as a concentrated source of omega-3s. Responding to consumer demand, some companies now sell sardines canned in fish oil for an added boost of omega-3 fatty acids, although this is not the norm. Sardines are typically canned in soybean oil; while this oil contains a small amount of omega-3 fat, it offers more than seven times as much omega-6 fat (a second type of essential fatty acid that is overabundant in the typical American diet). Most of the benefit from increasing our intake of omega-3 fat results from changing the proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 fat. Adding more omega-6 fat in the form of soybean oil offsets some of the benefit of eating sardines in the first place. Note that sardines are still low in saturated fat and provide a good source of calcium. To get the most health benefit from omega-3-rich sardines, however, choose those packed in fish oil, water, olive oil, mustard or tomato sauce. As always, be sure to read nutrient content labels and keep an eye on added salt; some varieties of sardines, particularly those canned in mustard, can be very high in sodium.

Q: Is bisque always a high-fat soup choice?
A: If you see bisque on a menu, it’s a safe bet to assume it is fairly high in fat. This thick, rich soup of French origin typically features pureed seafood or vegetables (occasionally chicken) combined with heavy cream. An eight-ounce bowl of bisque provides roughly 300 to 500 calories, 20 to 30 grams of total fat and up to 20 grams – nearly a day’s worth – of saturated fat. If you’re craving a full bodied soup, there are plenty of ways to adapt recipes at home and keep the rich mouth feel of bisque without the added fat and calories. For example, try substituting evaporated skim milk or fat-free half and half in place of heavy cream. Or, consider adding a starchy vegetable like sweet potato, corn or winter squash for one of nature’s favorite thickeners.

Q: How can I jazz up my holiday table with a low-fat, fruit-based dessert?
A: Fruit can be a delicious dessert in its own right. In fact, what better way to end a meal than a bowl full of raspberries or a plate of sun-kissed peach slices? Once you cut down on high-sugar desserts and snacks, the natural sweetness of plain fruit is easy to appreciate. To ease the transition away from American staples like cookies and ice cream to fruit-centered desserts, try some of the following tricks of the trade to help elevate fruit to a whole new level. Opt for an oven- or microwave-baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon and a few chopped walnuts. Serve pureed (unsweetened) frozen berries over vanilla yogurt with a light sprinkling of low-fat granola. For the true gourmand, try lightly dipping chunks of fruit like pineapple, banana or strawberries into just-melted dark chocolate. Cooks with less time can quickly broil grapefruit or peach halves, topped with just a touch of brown sugar.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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