Monday, November 25, 2013

Dried mussels: A little plate with 160 g of protein (plus some comments on high-protein low-carbohydrate dieting)

Many hunter-gatherer groups employed various methods of drying to preserve meats. Drying also increases significantly the protein content of meats; this is the case with dried mussels. I discussed this effect of drying before here with respect to small fish (). The photo below is of a plate with about 240 g of dried mussels that I prepared using the simple recipe below.

To prepare your mussels as in the photo above, you will have to steam and then dry them. You can season the mussels after you steam them, but I rarely season mine. Almost none of the food I eat requires much seasoning anyway, because I use nature’s super-spice, which makes everything that has a high nutrient content taste delicious: hunger ().

- Steam the mussels for about 10 minutes, or until all are open.
- Remove the mussels from the shells; carefully, to avoid small shell pieces from coming off into the mussels (they are not kind to your teeth).
- Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the mussels in it (on a tray) for about 1 hour.
- Leave the mussels in the oven until they are cold, this will dry them further.

About 240 g of mussels, after drying, will yield a meal with a bit more than 160 g of protein – i.e., the proportion of protein will go from about 20 percent up to about 67 percent. In this case, most of the calories in the meal will come from the protein, if you had nothing else with it, adding up to less than 800 calories.

This comes in handy if you need to have lunch out, as the dried mussels can be carried in a plastic bag or container and eaten cold or after a light re-heating in a microwave. To me, they taste very good either way; but then again anything that is nutritious tends to taste very good when you are hungry, and I rarely have breakfast. I often eat them with pre-cooked sweet potato, which I eat with the skin (it tastes like candy).

You may want to think of dried mussels prepared in this way as a protein supplement, but a very nutritious one. You will be getting a large dose of omega-3 fats (3.11 g) with less omega-6 fats than you usually get through fish oil softgels (where n-6s are added for stability), about 1,224 percent of the recommended daily value (RDV) of magnesium, 461 percent of the RDV of selenium, 1,440 of the RDV of vitamin B12, a large dose of zinc, and (interestingly) almost 100 percent of the RDV of vitamin C.

Since mussels are very low in the food chain, accumulation of compounds that can be toxic to humans is not amplified by biomagnification (). But, still, mussels can be significantly affected by contaminants (e.g., petroleum hydrocarbons), so sourcing is important. The supermarket chain I use here in Texas, HEB, claims to do very careful sourcing. Telltale signs of contamination are developmental problems such as thin shells that shatter easily and stunted growth ().

For those readers who are on a low-carbohydrate diet, please pay attention to this: there is NO WAY your body will turn protein into fat if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, unless you have a serious metabolic disorder (see this post: , and this podcast: ). And I mean SERIOUS; probably way beyond prediabetes. Do not believe the nonsense that has been circulating in some areas of the blogosphere lately.

A high-protein low-carbohydrate diet is one of the most effective diets at reducing body fat, particularly if you do resistance exercise (and you do not have to do it like a bodybuilder). That is not to say that a high-fat low-protein diet (like the "optimal diet") is a bad idea; in fact, the optimal diet is a good option if you do not do resistance exercise, but that is a topic for a different post.