How many of us eat seafood in any form throughout the week?
We are told by experts that it is healthy for us to eat fish and seafood twice a week. One or two 3 ounce servings of omega 3 containing fatty fish a week have been shown to reduce our risk for heart disease.
However, research shows us that about one-third of Americans eat seafood only once a week, while nearly half of us eat fish only occasionally or not at all.
Are we afraid of fish or is it a case of just not liking it?
Many people cite these reasons as why they don’t eat more fish: they don’t feel confidant cooking their own fish at home; think it costs too much; or, don’t want the smell to permeate their home.
Others worry that it is not safe to eat because of a variety of factors.
Because fish and seafood meet such important nutritional needs, we asked Detective Foodsafe® for her insights on eating them safely.
Concerns About Safety of Fish and Other Seafood
Have you heard that eating fish is not a good idea because fish could be polluted? They may contain unhealthy levels of mercury, pesticides, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Detective Foodsafe said she and other experts understand the fear of mercury and know that some fish do contain more mercury than others. Eating too much high mercury content fish can lead to health issues, including damage to kidneys, brain development, and nervous system. The mercury level in other fish is considered safe in the quantities we eat.
It is for that reason that pregnant women (and their unborn children) are cautioned against eating specific high mercury fish. She recommends downloading Advice About Eating Fish from the Food and Drug Administration for more guidance for pregnant women and young children.
Mercury enters the fish from pollution in the air that deposits in water making its way up the food chain from small organisms to fish. Predatory fish like shark and tuna have the highest amounts of mercury.
Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish are low-mercury fish. Albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. Therefore, it is recommended you limit your intake of albacore tuna to once a week. High mercury fish which should be avoided include these four fish species — shark, swordfish, tilefish (also known as golden bass or golden snapper), and king mackerel.
In addition, experts also point out that PCBs in fish are equal to levels found in other meat, dairy and eggs. Actually 90% of the amount of PCBs consumed come from these food sources — not fish. Our concern over PCBs in fish seems to be unfounded.
If you catch fish in local waterways, it is important to be aware of the quality of the water. Contact your local authorities about the safety of eating fish caught in those local water sources.
There are some parts of the country considering legislation requiring restaurants to post warnings of high mercury fish on their menus.
It is always wise to be cautious and stay within the recommended limits on fish and seafood where applicable, according to Detective Foodsafe, but we should not miss out on the health benefits those foods provide.
Nutritional Benefits of Seafood
Seafood is packed with good nutrition to help keep you healthy.
In addition to low saturated fat protein, it also contains omega-3-fatty acids which help protect our heart health.
Most fish contain important nutrients such as Vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin (B2), phosphorus and minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.
Adding Fish to Your Menu
When you select a healthy fish or seafood (high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in mercury), you can feel comfortable adding it to your menu each week.
Here are some tips from MyPlate to help you add fish to your plate:
- Eat a variety of types of seafood especially those high in omega3s like salmon, herring and trout as well as oyster, clams and calamari.
- Cook fish and seafood without adding extra fats such as grilling, roasting or broiling. Try without adding sauces and breading which only add fat and calories.
- Keep fish and other types of seafood on hand in your kitchen, including canned salmon, tuna, and sardines, so you can make quick meals with ingredients in the pantry.
- Cook fish and seafood thoroughly. Shells should remain clamped shut before cooking and open after cooking. If not, toss them out. Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F; it should be opaque and flaky when cooked.
- Add creativity to the menu with fish by trying out new recipes such as salmon patties, fish tacos, or pasta with seafood. This includes trying new varieties of fish.
- Ever had scallops or crab instead of chicken in a salad or sandwich? Substitute canned fish in a lunchtime sandwich or stuff in a pita.
- Stay in your budget by purchasing frozen seafood or shop when it goes on sale.
- The recommended portion for fish and seafood for adults is 8 ounces a week.
Eating fish more often will positively impact all parts of your body — skin, brain, eyes, liver, kidneys, muscles, and your waistline — to help prevent disease.
Add Fish to Your Plate to Add Health
Fish doesn’t have to be hard to prepare (in fact, it cooks quickly) or smell up your home (most varieties don’t have a strong odor).
They will not only add a little variety to your everyday menus, but also add health.
What’s for dinner tonight? How about this fish filet poached in diced tomatoes, salsa or chutney?
Looks pretty tasty to me!