Why you should eat this shellfish from the bottom of the ocean, according to an Iron Chef - Exclusive

The words "trash fish" probably don't make your mouth water, but there is one shellfish in particular that falls into that category that you might want to add to your repertoire, according to Michelin-award winning Chef Anita Lo, who has competed on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Chef Lo explained why these much-maligned fish should be making their way from the bottom of the ocean to the top of your grocery list. "I think there's a lot of fish that people have thought of as 'trash fish' that are perfectly edible and plentiful," explained Chef Lo, who has cooked at the White House for President Barack Obama. "I'm not really advocating eating down the food chain, but we should eat what the ocean has to offer rather than what we want to take from it."

One particular type of "trash fish" that is truly a treasure is mussels, Chef Lo added.

Here's why Chef Lo loves cooking mussels

Why does Chef Lo love mussels? Let her count the ways. "Well, first of all, they're inexpensive," she explained. "They're really quick-cooking, but they're also probably one of the most sustainable foods out there. I mean, you don't even need fresh water to grow them! They grow really, really fast." Plus, she noted, the term "bottom feeder" isn't telling the full story; mussels are indeed bottom cleaners, and the ocean needs more of that. "They actually clean the ocean while they're growing and they don't take up a lot of space in the ocean for growing," she explained.

And above all else, "they're delicious," she added. "I think a lot of people are afraid of cooking fish and shellfish," Chef Lo said. "I think this is a good introductory dish that most people love and that's endlessly adaptable and it's easy."

Feel 'meh' about mussels? Free your mind, Chef Lo says!

If mussels don't make you say mmm mmm mmm, take a step back and challenge yourself to eat a wider array of cuisines and ingredients, urged Chef Lo. "I think it's really important to eat diversely. I really think learning about other cultures through food is a way of opening your mind and I think we could all use a little more unity right now," she said. "That's an easy step to take."

Chef Lo added that eating a larger variety of foods isn't just about learning to expand your palate. It's also healthier for your body to be exposed to more flavors and nutrients. "I think eating diverse ingredients in general is better for your body and promotes biodiversity, which is better for the planet," she explained. "There's a whole bunch of underrated ingredients." Plus, she noted, learning to appreciate different kinds of food is better for the environment. "I think 30 percent of our food in the United States goes to waste, and 10 percent of our carbon footprint is from food waste," Chef Lo noted.

Be sure to reserve your spot in Chef Lo's virtual cooking class on CocuSocial, which will be taught on August 16th.