Spicy Red Fish

by Bashar Khiatah, MD

The food we eat is either the greatest form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. And the food that promotes good health should look and taste delicious. The dish we’re featuring here is bursting with flavor, but the best part about it is the astounding health benefit. You probably know that fatty fish like salmon is good for your brain health (thanks to those omega 3 fats and the vitamin D), but we pair it with other ingredients in this dish to create a meal that has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and more. The name “Red Fish” comes from the red color of the two dominant peppers used in the spice rub, and those are the real stars of the show. Let’s dive into the evidence based benefits of each component.

Chili Peppers

Chili peppers are bursting with anti-inflammatory compounds. In a study performed in Vienna, among many plants tested, chili peppers had the most potent anti inflammatory potential and the highest effect in decreasing the production of compounds that are known for their proinflammatory role, such as IL-6, TNF-alpha, and COX-2.  Additionally, the results showed that chili peppers increased the production of IL-10 and other anti-inflammatory cytokines (1). So basically, the chili peppers downregulate the compounds that cause excess inflammation, and downregulate the compounds that fight inflammation- great news for anyone dealing with an inflammatory disease. The active compounds that are providing these benefits in chili peppers include flavonoids and capsaicinoids, specifically apigenin, capsaicin, chrysin, diosmetin, kämpferol, luteolin, naringenin, quercetin and resveratrol (2).

Coriander

This dish also features coriander, a spice that has been used for centuries for both its incredible flavor and medicinal properties. Coriander has been used in many treatments for different diseases. Countless studies provide evidence based research supporting the effects of coriander and the benefits of consuming it. In essence, coriander has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. And as a result, coriander can help prevent and reverse many diseases. For example, coriander has been shown in research to function as an antidiabetic, lipid lowering agent, anticancer, antimicrobial, and to be neuroprotective. All this from one little spice!

Studies that sought to detect the neuroprotective effect of coriander showed significant enhancement of cognitive function, due to of course its anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory properties but also for its protection against the cytotoxic effect of beta amyloid on the brain (3-5). In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain suffers from the result of the beta amyloid plaque accumulation. The science here suggests that this may be alleviated in some way because the compounds contained in coriander block the production of beta amyloid. Coriander was also investigated for its role in regulating diabetes by comparing coriander to a commercially available drug called glibenclamide, which is used to treat diabetes, and the coriander was found to have a blood glucose lowering effect similar to the commonly prescribed drug (6-7). In addition, the coriander acts as a hypolipidemic agent, lowering blood lipids associated with cardiovascular disease.

The mechanism of action surrounding coriander’s anticancer effect is not only the result of its function as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative compound, but also because it inhibits DNA damage and prevents cancer cell migration. This means that coriander has the potential to both prevent new cancer growth and inhibit metastasis, meaning that it blocks the spread of currently existing cancers to other healthy tissue (8).

Another impressive finding of coriander is that coriander has been shown to improve the health of the microbiome. Specifically, coriander was shown in studies to optimize ileum microflora by reduction of pathogenic bacteria. It was also shown to have an effect as food preservative, because it has potent antimicrobial, and specifically antifungal or anti-mold effect (9-10). For individuals suffering from cognitive decline as a result of mold toxicity, this research is extremely compelling. If coriander has an anti-mold effect outside the body, it’s possible that i has a similar effect inside the body, thus protecting the body from mold accumulation. Finally, coriander has been studied for its detoxification properties, and has been heavily investigated for its role in protecting the liver and its potential as a lead and other toxic metal chelator (11-12).

Garlic

The benefits of garlic are countless. Among others, garlic is known for being an antiparasitic, antithrombotic,  hypolipidemic, anticancer, anti-aging, antiarthritic, hypoglycemic, and for its benefit in treating liver disorders. Briefly, the anticancer effects come from S-allylcysteine and S-allylmercapto-L-cysteine, which are the two main substances with the highest radical scavenging activity (13). In other words, these compounds neutralize reactive and volatile compounds that cause damage to the cell. Its antidiabetic effect comes from its ability to increase insulin production and its antioxidation response. Garlic also decreases the peroxidation of lipids, which has a profound impact on reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease (14). And that’s just skimming the surface on garlic!

Now back to the good stuff. This dish takes about 30 minute to prepare, it has simple ingredients that are easy to find organic at most grocery stores. Remember, the organic spices are not only a healthier choice (because the lack dangerous doses of pesticides), but they are also more flavorful than their non-organic counterparts, which is why they can be used in smaller amounts.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper (or other chili powder)
  • ¾ tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 lb wild caught salmon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Combine the garlic, spices, and oils in a large bowl. Mix well, then set aside for a few minutes to let the flavors enhance.
  3. Cut fish into approximately 3-4 oz pieces.
  4. Add fish to bowl and cover completely in spice mixture, flipping the salmon so that all sides are covered.
  5. Let fish marinate in spice mixture for 15 minutes.
  6. Place fish on a parchment lined baking sheet, adding extra spice mixture on top.
  7. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately.

References:

  1. Mueller,  M; Hobiger,  S; Jungbauer,  A. Anti-inflammatory activity  of extracts from fruits, herbs  and spices. Food Chem.,2010, 122, 987-996
  2. Araceli M. Vera-Guzmán, Elia N. Aquino-Bolaños, Elena Heredia-García, José C. Carrillo-Rodríguez, Sanjuana Hernández-Delgado, José L. Chávez-Servia, Flavonoid and Capsaicinoid Contents and Consumption of Mexican Chili Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) Landraces. DOI: 10.5772/68076
  3. Cognitive-enhancing and antioxidant activities of inhaled coriander volatile oil in amyloid β(1-42) rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. Cioanca O, Hritcu L, Mihasan M, Hancianu M. Physiol Behav. 2013 Aug 15;120:193-202. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.08.006. Epub 2013 Aug 16.PMID: 23958472
  4. J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Jan 15;91(1):186-92. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.4171. Epub 2010 Sep 17. Reversal of memory deficits by Coriandrum sativum leaves in mice.
    Mani V1, Parle M, Ramasamy K, Abdul Majeed AB.
  5. Coriandrum sativum Suppresses Aβ42-Induced ROS Increases, Glial Cell Proliferation, and ERK Activation.Liu QF, Jeong H, Lee JH, Hong YK, Oh Y, Kim YM, Suh YS, Bang S, Yun HS, Lee K, Cho SM, Lee SB, Jeon S, Chin YW, Koo BS, Cho KS.Am J Chin Med. 2016;44(7):1325-1347. Epub 2016 Oct 25.PMID: 27776428
  6. J Food Sci. 2012 Jul;77(7):T119-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02755.x. Epub 2012 Jun 1.Antioxidant, antihyperglycemic, and antihyperlipidemic effects of Coriandrum sativum leaf and stem in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
    Sreelatha S1, Inbavalli R.
  7. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):404-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2642.
    Effect of coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum L.) ethanol extract on insulin release from pancreatic beta cells in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.Eidi M1, Eidi A, Saeidi A, Molanaei S, Sadeghipour A, Bahar M, Bahar K.
  8. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013; 13: 347.doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-347

    PMID: 24517259 Antioxidant activity of Coriandrum sativum and protection against DNA damage and cancer cell migration. Esther LH Tang,1 Jayakumar Rajarajeswaran,1 Shin Yee Fung,1 and MS Kanthimathi

  9. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jan 2;57(1):35-47. Antimicrobial activity of coriander oil and its effectiveness as food preservative. Silva F1, Domingues FC1.
  10. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014; 2014: 628979. Published online 2014 Dec 28. doi: 10.1155/2014/6289 PMID: 25614892
    Effects of Different Levels of Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) Seed Powder and Extract on Serum Biochemical Parameters, Microbiota, and Immunity in Broiler Chicks.Hesam Hosseinzadeh, 1 Ali Ahmad Alaw Qotbi, 1 Alireza Seidavi, 1 David Norris, 2 , * and David Brown 2
  11. Pharmacological screening of Coriandrum sativum Linn. for hepatoprotective activity. A. Pandey, P. Bigoniya, V. Raj, K. K. Patel J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011 Jul-Sep; 3(3): 435–441.  doi: 10.4103/0975-7406.84462
  12. EVALUATION OF THE CHELATING EFFECT OF METHANOLIC EXTRACT OF CORIANDRUM SATIVUM AND ITS FRACTIONS ON WISTAR RATS POISONED WITH LEAD ACETATE. Miguel Ángel Téllez-López, Gabriela Mora-Tovar, Iromi Marlen Ceniceros-Méndez, Concepción García-Lujan, Cristo Omar Puente-Valenzuela, María del Carmen Vega-Menchaca, Luis Benjamín Serrano-Gallardo, Rubén García Garza, Javier Morán-Martínez . Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2017; 14(2): 92–102. Published online 2017 Jan 13. doi: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i2.11
  13. Thomson, M.; Ali, M.Garlic (Allium sativum): A Review of its  Potential Use as an Anti-Cancer Agent Curr. Cancer Drug Targ.,2003,3, 1, 67-81.
  14. Bala,  K. Effect  of garlic and  turmeric extracts,  and their functional  components diallylsulphide  and curcumin re-spectively, on aging rat brain. 2014,PhD Thesis.