Seamus Mullen: Why We Could All Eat More Fat

Mj 618_348_eat more fat
Photograph by Randy Harris

The curious thing about the world of dietary advice is that if you don't like what you hear, just wait a minute and, soon enough, the pendulum will swing back – what was once gospel will be garbage. On the topic of fat, however, we can end the discussion. After years of being demonized, fat is finally being recognized as an important – no, a necessary – part of our diets. The idea that eating fat makes you fat has been widely discredited, though you have to know which fats to eat.

You've heard that not all calories are created equal? Well, the same goes for fats. When I recommend a high-fat diet, I'm talking about eating lots of avocado, grass-fed beef and butter, pasture-raised eggs, olive oil, coconut, cold-water fish (which accumulate fat in order to stay warm), and many other delicious things that won't clog your arteries.

Mj 390_294_a seafood feast for the holidays

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Why grass-fed instead of grain-fed beef? Because cows evolved to graze on grass, not to fight one another for corn and soy products. Meat from grass-fed cows also tends to have a much better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. (Both are good, polyunsaturated fats, but American diets are dangerously overloaded with the latter, because it is present in corn and soy, which constitute so much of our processed foods.) It makes sense: Animals that are crowded in factorylike conditions and fed industrial-grade foods are going to be stressed and inflamed; consequently, the foods we derive from them are going to be inflammatory to us.

As a chef, I've been standing on a soapbox for years trying to explain that there's no reason healthy food shouldn't also be delectable and nourishing. Don't eat some dry, bland, soulless seitan steak substitute when a real, grass-fed steak is healthier and far tastier.

A favorite dish I've been making a lot at home lately is a seafood and coconut curry with green vegetables, chia seeds, and avocado. It's remarkably easy – the whole thing takes less than 25 minutes to prepare – incredibly delicious, and loaded with healthy fats. I use monkfish, scallops, and mussels, but it's good with nearly any fresh seafood.

Seafood & Coconut Curry


  • ½ lb monkfish, cut into 1" medallions
  • 4 scallops (2 per person)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1" pieces
  • ½ kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 trumpet mushroom, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp fish sauce
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • ¾ lb mussels
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, cut into long wedges (or green beans)
  • 1 lime
  • handful cilantro
  • handful basil
  • handful mint
  • 1 serrano chili, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 avocado, diced

Step One
Layer flavor. To build the first layer, sear your fish and scallops in coconut oil with some butter. Then remove them from the pan and set aside. Add onion, carrots, and squash and brown in bottom of pan. Next, add in mushroom and stalks of lemongrass. Deglaze with rice wine vinegar and fish sauce.

Step Two
Add texture. Once the vegetables begin to soften (a few minutes), pour in the coconut milk and add chia seeds.

Step Three
Season and simmer. After another minute or two, season the liquid with salt and pepper, then toss in the mussels. Cover the pot and simmer until the mussels just begin to pop open and release their liquor back into the stew. This brings brininess.

Step Four
Poach. Nestle the fish and scallops into the stew, just deep enough to poach them (don't submerge). Remove the lemongrass stalks, add the garlic and ginger, and throw in the baby bok choy. Let it all simmer together until the greens are bright and the fish is just cooked through.

Step Five
Finish and serve. Add a squeeze of lime; the cilantro, basil, and mint; the thinly sliced chili; and the diced avocado. This dish is awesome over brown rice or forbidden black rice – but it's also terrific on its own.

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