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Marine Matters: Low Fat & Mighty Tasty

Marine Matters: Low Fat & Mighty Tasty
by Melissa Waterman

When I was much, much younger than I am now, I admired adults immensely. My highest goal was to be included in adult activities, like cocktail parties, ladies' coffee groups, or dinner gatherings. There was just something so mysterious about these social events, like entering Ali Baba's cave, and I was firmly convinced that if I could just be included, the bewildering behavior of the adults in my life might begin to make sense.

One day, I was. We were joining family friends for a summertime supper. The long table was set, the windows flung open to the evening air. The hostess beckoned me over. "You sit here," she said nonchalantly. I took my seat. I was at the table, surrounded by adults! People settled in their chairs, beer was poured, a basket of bread passed around. No one, including my mother, looked twice at me. I was delighted. Then the main course was brought out - a black enamel pot full of steaming lobsters.

I had never been served a lobster before. My father didn't like seafood so the menu in my home revolved around chicken and beef. A modest-sized lobster landed on my plate, its antennae curled along its back. I was appalled. Gazing at the others around the table, I soon realized that the only way to be part of the group was to rip the creature apart, crack it open with a nutcracker and drag the meat out. This, unfortunately, was beyond my abilities at that young age. I think someone eventually opened a claw for me but I was not about to eat what was extracted. My lobster quickly landed on someone else's plate and my brief masquerade as an adult was over.

I bring this story up because this week thousands of lobster eaters are descending upon Rockland for the 65th annual Maine Lobster Festival. Under the broad tent pitched at the city's Public Landing they will crack open and eat more than 20,000 pounds of lobster during the five-day festival. They come in such numbers because to eat fresh lobster is still a luxury for those who live far from the sea. What these hordes of lobster diners don't know is that lobster is actually quite good for you.

The Maine Lobster Promotion Council, based in Portland, notes on its Web site that lobster is a meat that is lower in calories than skinless chicken breast, lean beef or even a poached egg! It also ranks high as a low-cholesterol food. One hundred grams of chicken has 85 milligrams of cholesterol, lean beef has 86 milligrams, a poached egg has 423 milligrams while lobster has just 72 milligrams.

Lobster is a good source of lean protein, for those who favor the no-carbohydrate, high-protein diets popular these days. In addition, it is packed with many essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, B12, vitamin D and vitamin E. Lobster meat contains generous amounts of selenium, a mineral known to boost the immune system and maintain thyroid health, as well as copper and zinc. And, of course, iodine, a mineral also critical to the thyroid gland.

Then there's the Omega-3 fatty acids. These are the polyunsaturated fatty acids that one ingests from most seafood. They protect the heart in multiple ways, including reducing inflammation and blood clotting, and lowering blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol. Lobster is simply brimming with these valuable fatty acids.

How many other foods considered an indulgence can claim so many health benefits? Ice cream? No. Steak? Definitely not. Caviar? Turns out caviar is high in sodium and cholesterol (50 to 94 grams in a tablespoon, according to the U.S.D.A.). So what's a diner seeking a splurge to do?

Follow the lead of this week's eager Maine Lobster Festival visitors. Eat lobster! ... maybe skip the butter.