Something Different
Week of: September 24, 2012
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Mussels Bring Much Goodness Home

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

A serving of steamed mussels is a heaping feast. Digging into it brings briny pleasure plus a long list of benefits. Many people hesitate to cook mussels at home so I hope seeing this list of their goodness inspires you to see how easy it is.

Mussels remain one of the few fresh aquatic choices affordable on a modest food budget. Entirely natural, they are not treated with sulfites like most of the shrimp sold in the U.S. Nutritionally; they are low in calories, high in protein and minerals.

Mussels may be the only farmed food whose production is good for the environment. Most of the mussels sold in stores are farmed. Their cultivation involves using ropes or lines suspended in open water. Filtering the water as they feed, the mussels remove excess algae, nutrients, and sediments, actually cleaning the water. The eggs used for cultivating mussels are natural ones taken from other mussels. No antibiotics are used since this shellfish is disease-resistant. In case there might be a problem, for your protection all mussels sold in the U.S. come with a tag telling where they were harvested and when. It includes a lot number that makes them traceable. Next time you see mussels being sold in a mesh bag, look for the tag. When mussels are sold in bulk, the fishmonger is required to hold onto the tag.

Mussels can be boiled, baked, or barbecued on the grill, but steaming is the most popular way to cook them. Ways to season them are equally varied. The classic choice calls for using white wine but a restaurant in New York City,, serves steamed mussels prepared at least 23 ways everyday by adding different combinations of ingredients for flavor. The menu posted on their website is inspiring.

To enjoy mussels at home, buy one pound per person. Since mussels must be alive when they are cooked, best to buy them the day you serve them.

Steamed Mussels

Steamed Mussels

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lbs. mussels
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped flatleaf parsley

In large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in broth and cook for 3 minutes.

While onions cook, in colander rinse mussels under cold running water, and set aside to drain.

Add lemon juice to pot. Heap in mussels. Sprinkle tomato into pot. Cover pot and steam for 5 to 6 minutes, or until mussels are opened. Immediately scoop mussels into big serving bowl, including onions and tomatoes from pot. Sprinkle on parsley. Divide liquid from pot between two bowls. Serve mussels with liquid for dipping.

Makes 2 servings for main course; 4 servings for appetizer.

Per serving (main course): 265 calories, 11 g total fat (< 2 g saturated fat),
19 g carbohydrate, 23 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 599 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at

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