Courtesy of Christine Skopec
When you’re looking to get lean, exercise is only half the equation. You can do all the crunches in the world, but the foods you eat are every bit as important. We’ll show you how to use some of the healthiest eats to sculpt your physique without sacrificing flavor.
Health-conscious eaters regularly fill their plates with seafood like salmon and tuna without even letting their minds drift toward mussels. Though these mollusks don’t get as much love, they’re every bit as healthy as any other type of fish. According to NutritionData.com, a 3-ounce serving contains 146 calories, 20 grams of protein, a whopping dose of iron, and a surprising amount of vitamin C.
Because mussels have a naturally sweet flavor, they pair wonderfully with loads of other ingredients. They’re also rock stars for busy nights because cooking takes a matter of minutes. Get more mussels in your life with these five recipes.
The featured Curried Carrot and Mussel Soup is a sweet, creamy carrot soup that gets more staying power with the addition of plenty of mussels in this recipe from Food & Wine. The shellfish create their own broth when steamed in wine, so you’ll end up with a full-flavored dish without much effort. In fact, this delicious soup comes together with just nine ingredients.
High in vitamin B12, mussels could be a great brain food. Studies, including a recent example from Current Alzheimer Research, have linked low levels of the nutrient to Alzheimer’s disease. Getting your fill of vitamin B12 might not be a guaranteed way to eliminate your risk, but it’s not a bad idea.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1¼ pound carrots, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 quart canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
- 2 cups water
- 6 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, discard any broken mussels or ones that don’t close when you tap the shell. Add to a large stainless steel pot and pour in wine. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, just until mussels open, about 3 minutes. Remove mussels as they open, then close to cook remaining ones. Discard any mussels that don’t open. Once cool, remove all but 12 mussels from shells and discard shells.
Blend half of carrot mixture in a blender or food processor, then return to same pot. Pour mussel liquid into carrot mixture, leaving behind any accumulated grit. Add shelled mussels and cook over low heat just until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve soup topped with remaining mussels.
2. Quick Paella with Shrimp and Mussels
Traditional paella is quite a project to pull off, so many never attempt the dish at home. This speedy version from Eating Well is a great way to enjoy the flavors without the time investment thanks to quick-cooking seafood and instant brown rice. Leftovers make a perfect cold salad you can pack for work later in the week. Just add a lemon wedge to brighten the flavors a bit, and your midday meal is good to go.
Packed with grains, vegetables, and seafood, this dish is pretty much the poster child for Mediterranean eating. The diet has been linked to scores of health benefits, including a longer life. One 2014 study found those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet have longer telomeres, caps at the ends of our chromosomes that help protect our genetic data, which suggest a longer life.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups instant brown rice
- 1⅓ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 1 pound (21 to 25) peeled and deveined raw shrimp
- 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
- 1 pound mussels, scrubbed well
- 4 lemon wedges
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice, broth, thyme, salt, pepper, and saffron. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in shrimp and peas. Place mussels on top of rice in an even layer. Cover and continue to cook until mussels open, rice is tender, and shrimp are cooked, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
3. Thai Seafood Salad
If your entrée salads all look like same variation of chicken breast with greens, shake things up with this Thai-inspired salad from Fine Cooking. It’s brimming with seafood, fresh herbs, and crunchy veggies tossed in a vibrant dressing. Don’t be intimated by the variety of seafood, either. You can easily simplify the recipe by using just one or two types of shellfish.
The delicious taste is reason enough to make this salad, but the health benefits give it extra credit. Mussels might even be the key to warding off cancer. One 2012 study revealed a type of peptide in mussels can kill breast, prostate, and lung cancer cells.
- 24 small mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¾ pound (51 to 60 per pound) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ pound cleaned squid, bodies cut into ¼-inch rings and tentacles halved if large
- ½ pound sea or bay scallops
- ¼ pound fresh or pasteurized jumbo lump crabmeat
- 6 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 4½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped spicy green chiles, such as serrano or jalapeño
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 2 cups bite-size pieces Boston lettuce
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup sliced English cucumber
- ½ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
Place mussels in a medium pot and add ½ cup water. Cover and set over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until shells open, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate. Discard any unopened mussels, then remove meat from cooked mussels and transfer to a medium bowl. Discard shells and cooking liquid.
Bring a 3-quart saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add salt, then add shrimp and cook until opaque and just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to bowl with mussels.
Once water returns to a boil, cook squid until firm and white, about 1 minute. Remove and add to same bowl with mussels and shrimp. Once water returns to a boil, repeat with scallops, cooking just until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes for bay scallops and 2 to 3 minutes for sea scallops. Remove and add to bowl with seafood. Add crab and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chiles, and garlic. Stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.
Arrange lettuce on a serving platter. Transfer seafood to bowl with dressing and add shallots. Toss to coat, then add scallions, cilantro, and mint. Toss again, then scoop over lettuce with a slotted spoon. Toss cucumber and tomatoes with remaining dressing and arrange around seafood. Drizzle remaining dressing over top. Serve at once.
4. Angel Hair Pasta with Mussels and Red Pepper Sauce
Like clams, mussels pair wonderfully with pasta. Try this recipe filled with a tomato and red pepper sauce from Cooking Light to taste for yourself. While the dish is already healthy, you can get boost the nutrition even more by wilting in some spinach or chard at the very end.
Since our less-than-healthy diets have been linked to high levels of inflammation, cooking more dishes like this mussel-studded pasta is a good idea. One recent study published in Nutrients found arthritis patients treated with an extract from mussels enjoyed reduced inflammation.
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup diced onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups diced red bell pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch ground red pepper
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped and undrained
- ½ cup white wine
- 36 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Cook pasta according to package directions without adding salt or oil. Drain and keep warm.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, salt, and red pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine, bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add mussels and increase heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes, or until shells open. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve over pasta and garnish with parsley.
5. Cider-Cooked Mussels with Kale
One-pot meals score points for simplicity as well as keeping dishes to a minimum, and they can also be speedy if you choose wisely. This kale and mussel recipe from Delicious meets all three criteria. In just 20 minutes, you’ll have a delicious dish that needs nothing more than some crusty bread to become a complete meal.
If you don’t particularly care for the strong taste of fatty fish, mussels are a great alternative for getting a dose of omega-3s. Even if you try to get your fill with supplements, you’re better off getting these healthy fats from real food. Unlike seafood consumption, studies have shown fish oil supplements don’t cut the risk of heart disease or death.
- Olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3½ ounces kale, chopped
- 6¾ ounces good quality dry cider
- 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
- 1 small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Heat a drizzle of oil in a deep pan. Add garlic and shallots and cook over low heat, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cider and increase heat to a simmer. Add mussels to pan, bring to a boil, cover, and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until mussels have opened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
Add parsley to mussels and stir to combine. Serve mussels in bowls with bread to mop up juices.
Again, exercise is only half the equation, add these delicious mussel recipes to complete your goal without sacrificing taste.
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