Seafood: Exploring the Options and Health Benefits

April 1, 2021

By: Abi Gottshall

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans consume 2 servings, or 8 ounces of seafood, per week [2]. USDA data estimates show the average person eats only 2.7 ounces of seafood per week [3]. Some may avoid seafood due to concerns that it is too expensive to consume on a weekly basis. Other barriers are lack of knowledge of seafood preparation and concern over the mercury content and other contaminants in seafood. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has seafood categorized by high and low mercury fish choices [6]. Some low mercury fish choices include salmon, trout, flounder, and haddock [6]. The EPA recommends consuming 2-3 servings of low mercury choices per week and avoiding seafood with the highest mercury levels, including king mackerel, shark, and bigeye tuna [6]. 
 
There are a variety of reasons why seafood is frequently touted by health professionals. Seafood is a high-quality lean protein that is low in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease [4]. It contains many essential nutrients, including iodine and Vitamin D [4].  Certain types of seafood, fatty fish especially, are a good source of Omega 3-fatty acids, which many observational studies have found to decrease risk of stroke, heart attack, and death from heart disease [5].  Other research into Omega 3’s show it may have benefits in reducing risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and diabetes [5]. 
 
To reap the heart protective benefits of seafood, choose salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, cod, trout, or canned light tuna, which are high in Omega 3’s [4]. When dining out, choose grilled or broiled seafood instead of fried fish to cut down on added fats. Or buy seafood to prepare at home. Choosing frozen seafood is typically a better value than fresh options. Buying a large bag of frozen fish or shrimp may seem expensive, however keep in mind that a large bag provides several meals, which will reduce future grocery trip costs. Another budget-friendly way to consume fish is by choosing canned tuna, salmon, or sardines. If consuming local fish caught by family or friends, be sure to check state advisories which often provide guidance on consuming seafood from local water sources. The best type of seafood to consume is one you enjoy and can afford. Consult with a Registered Dietitian or other healthcare professional if you have questions about how to incorporate seafood into your diet. 
 
Basic Fish Preparation and Tips • Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145, or until flesh is opaque and easily separates with a fork [1]. A fish fillet weighing 3-5 pounds baked in the oven at 350 should be finished cooking in 25-30 minutes. If cooking at 400 degrees, your time may be 10-12 minutes. • Create a simple marinade with olive oil, Dijon mustard, onion powder, minced garlic, and fresh dill. Coat your fish of choice and bake in the oven at 400 degrees. Cooking time will vary based on your cut of fish. • Pack your weekday lunch with heart-healthy tuna salad made with canned light tuna, reducedfat mayonnaise, plain Greek yogurt, minced celery and onions, garlic powder and a dash of paprika. Pair with a whole-grain tortilla, bread, or crackers for a satiating lunch on the go.  


References: 
[1] Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). (2020, July 08). Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.foodsafety.gov/foodsafety-charts/safe-minimum-cookingtemperature#:~:text=Safe%20Minimum%20Cooking%20Temperatures%20Charts%20%2 0%20,open%20during%20cooking%20%208%20more%20rows%20 
[2] Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 [PDF]. (n.d.). 
[3] Kantor, L. (2016, October 3). Americans' Seafood Consumption Below Recommendations. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/2016/october/americans-seafood-consumption-below-recommendations/ 
[4] Leech, J. (2019, June 11). 11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Eating Fish. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-health-benefits-offish#TOC_TITLE_HDR_12 
[5] Omega-3 in Fish: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart. (2019, September 28). Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/indepth/omega-3/art-20045614 
[6] [EPA-FDA Fish Choices Advice Chart]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2021, from http://foodsafetytrainingcertification.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/epa-fda-fishchoices-advice-chart.jpg