Dinner that’s ready in 20 minutes or less? Yes, please. This Lemon Pepper Cod recipe is so delectable, yet so easy to make, I bet you’ll find yourself adding it in to regular rotation.
If you know me, you know I’m a huge proponent of a plant-based diet: one made up with a vast majority of plant-based foods, like vegetables and beans. But, real, whole animal foods can also play a (side) role in an overall healthy diet.
When choosing fish, quality and where it comes from, is extremely important, which is explained under the “benefits of wild-caught fish” section. But first let’s talk about the benefits of cod.
The Benefits of Wild Cod
Wild cod offers a number of health benefits, including:
- Supports brain and nervous system health, by being an excellent source of B12. While found readily in animal-based foods, B-12 is not readily found in plant-based foods, and those following a primarily plant-based diet should ask their doctor to check their B-12 levels and supplement if needed. Four ounces delivers over 100% of our DV.
- Supports healthy thyroid function. Cod is an excellent source of iodine, a nutrient necessary for hormone production and thyroid health. Too little or too much iodine can cause issues, so aim to stay within the recommended intake values. Four ounces delivers 88% of our DV.
- Provides a good source of protein. Fish offers an alternative source of protein, compared to meat (of course, beans and lentils are another good protein alternative, too!). Four ounces contains 42% of the recommended daily intake.
- Provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. While there are other fish sources that provide higher amounts of omega-3, cod does provide some, about 8% DV per four ounces.
- Supports cardiovascular health. Multiple studies have shown that consuming fish, particularly cold water fish like cod, can be beneficial for people with atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Studies show that people who eat fish regularly have a much lower risk of heart disease and heart attack than people who don’t consume fish. The cardio-protective benefits of cod may be attributed, at least in part, to it’s B-12, B-6, and omega-3 content.
The Benefits of Wild-Caught Fish
Wild-caught fish are preferable over farmed. However, you may be surprised to learn that the “wild-caught” fish in your grocery store aren’t truly wild. They are still typically raised in pens, albeit within natural bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. The main benefits of choosing wild are that they are not subject to additives the way farmed fish are, and they are generally healthier (for you, and the environment).
Some of the benefits of wild-caught fish in general include:
- Avoid added pesticides, antibiotics, and vaccines. It may be hard to believe, but fish are typically farmed, similar to the way that other livestock, such as chicken and cows, are farmed: overcrowded in filthy and unhealthy conditions. Additionally, like their furry friends, farmed fish can be treated with a number of chemicals, including antibiotics, pesticides, and vaccines, that could potentially cause negative effects to the humans ingesting them on a regular basis. For example, anti-biotic resistant bacteria are on the rise, due to our widespread use of antibiotics in livestock production. The UN World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UK Department of Health have all flagged this issue as one of the most pressing and serious of our time.
- Less mercury and PCBs. Mercury and PCBs are highly toxic chemicals that, due to factories and acid rain, have contaminated the vast majority of our bodies of water, which means the vast majority of fish are exposed to them, farmed or wild. Research indicates, though, that wild-caught fish may be lower in these chemicals compared to farmed. For example, a report published by The Environmental Working Group found that farmed fish contained 16 times more PCBs than wild salmon. Because most, if not all, fish that you eat will have some amount of these chemicals, pregnant women are advised to avoid them completely, and everyone else should limit fish consumption to twice a week.
If you want truly wild fish, look for fish labeled “line caught” or “pole caught” which indicates they were sourced in open waters, not any type of fishery. (For a more thorough discussion and guidance on selecting the healthiest seafood, check out The Real Food Grocery Guide).
Lemon Pepper Cod
- 4 wild cod fillets 4 oz. each
- 2 lemons zested and cut in quarters
- black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place cod on a baking sheet, squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over both sides of the fillet, then sprinkle both sides with a pinch of salt, generously with black pepper and, lastly, with the lemon zest.
- Bake about 12 minutes or so, until thoroughly cooked through and fish flakes easily with a fork. Squeeze additional lemon over the fish just before serving, if you’d like.