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Eating More Fish and Seafood

June 11, 2024
Eating More Fish and Seafood

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In this article:

  • Seafood is rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It’s recommended that adults consume at least 12 ounces of fish and shellfish a week, but most Americans eat far less.
  • Getting more fish may lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fats can help, but may not have the same benefits.
  • There are many ways to add fish and shellfish to your routine when preparing food at home or ordering in a restaurant.
  • Lark can help you manage weight with or without GLP-1s as you log food, get tips for eating healthier, and make small changes that can turn into healthy habits.

Fish and shellfish are among the most nutritious protein sources, but most Americans don’t consume enough. Here’s all you need to know about the benefits of consuming fish and shellfish, how much you should have, and how to choose the best sources. Then keep reading for ideas on incorporating seafood into your routine.

Seafood, Omega-3 Fats, and Your Health

Fish and shellfish are sources of omega-3 fats called eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. These fats are types of unsaturated fatty acids that may have health benefits.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest getting about 12 ounces of seafood a week from various sources, but most Americans fall short. The average American gets less than half of the recommended amounts, and about half of Americans say they rarely or never eat seafood.

Mayo Clinic lists these benefits for heart health.

  • Reduced overall inflammation
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Reduced risk for stroke

Consuming EPA and DHA from seafood may also help support blood sugar regulation.

Fatty fish are highest in EPA and DHA. Here are some examples.

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Flounder
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna

Fish and shellfish are rich in other nutrients, too. They may have B vitamins, potassium, and antioxidants like astaxanthin. They’re low in saturated fat. Although some species, like shrimp, are high in cholesterol, most people can consume them if their overall diet is low in saturated fat. Ask your doctor if you’re concerned.

Fish and shellfish may support weight control because they are high in protein and low in carbohydrates and calories. Even fatty fish are lower in calories than protein sources like fatty red meat.

Seafood and Environmental Sustainability

When talking about consuming seafood, sustainability is a common concern. The environmental impact of seafood varies widely, according to the article in the Journal Nutrition. Factors that impact sustainability include how abundant the species is, whether the species is farmed or caught wild, what fishing method is used, and where the species is grown and caught.

You can support the environment by checking resources like the Seafood Profiles from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What About Mercury and PCBs?

Mercury is an environmental contaminant that can be a health concern for some people who consume seafood. Mercury can be stored in fish fat in the form of methylmercury. When you consume it, methylmercury can build up in your body’s fat. Methylmercury levels are higher in large fish with a lot of fat.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest avoiding shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel to avoid the highest levels of mercury. Pregnant women and children should also avoid or limit canned tuna. Salmon, anchovies, sardines, and trout are among the most nutritious species with a low amount of methylmercury. Tilapia, shrimp, and flounder are other low-mercury options.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and pesticide residues are also examples of environmental contaminants that can make their way into seafood. There have been investigations into the potential for these chemicals to cause cancer, but the effects aren’t clear. What is clear, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, is that the cardiovascular benefits of regular seafood consumption are far more likely to outweigh cancer or other health risks.

Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Fats

Some people don’t eat much seafood because they haven’t found many types that they like. There are plant-based sources of omega-3 fats.

Here are some sources.

  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Canola and soybean oils
  • Chia seeds

The omega-3 fats in these sources are in the form of a type of fat called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Your body can convert some ALA to EPA and DHA, but only a limited amount. There may be additional health benefits to consuming EPA and DHA from seafood compared to relying solely on high-ALA plant-based foods for your omega-3 fats.

Fish Oil Pills and Other Omega-3 Supplements

Various types of omega-3 supplements are widely available. Common forms include fish oil capsules and gels, ALA supplements, and capsules with EPA, DHA, and ALA. However, research hasn’t shown the same benefits of taking supplements compared to eating seafood. Plus, supplements aren’t well-regulated and aren’t always pure. Ask your healthcare provider if you’re curious about omega-3 or other supplements.

Try These Strategies If You Don’t Like Seafood

There’s still hope if you want to consume seafood. There are many different types of fish and shellfish to try and various ways to prepare them.

Here are some strategies for finding seafood that you like.

  • Keep trying different species. They have different tastes and textures. White fish like tilapia may be less “fishy” than other types of fish
  • Try recipes with a variety of spices. They may alter the taste of the seafood in ways you enjoy
  • Lemon is a common accompaniment to fish. Give it a try to see if it makes the fish taste better to you
  • Bury fish and shellfish in salads, stews, casseroles, and patties
  • Order fish or shrimp when you eat at a restaurant. That way, you’re getting a professional chef to prepare it for you, and you may enjoy it more than if you cook it for yourself at home
  • Transform less-healthy methods of preparation into healthier ones. For example, make baked fish sticks with whole-grain bread crumbs instead of using fried fish sticks, or make tuna salad with avocado or Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

It can also be a good idea to think about why you don’t like seafood. If you’re forming your opinion based on an unpleasant childhood memory, for example, it may be time to reconsider. Your taste buds may have matured, or you can try a different type of fish or preparation method.

Incorporating Seafood into Your Routine

Here are some ideas for nutritious meals and snacks with seafood that are easy to make.

  1. A frozen salmon burger patty, or make your own patty with canned or fresh salmon, whole-grain breadcrumbs, egg white, and chopped vegetables, served on a whole-grain hamburger bun with baked kale chips with olive oil and sea salt
  2. Fish stew with sweet potatoes and vegetables
  3. Shrimp or fish tacos on whole-grain tortillas with coleslaw dressed with olive oil, lime juice, and cumin
  4. Grilled shrimp skewers with vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions
  5. Tuna melts with low-fat Swiss cheese and arugula on whole-grain bread
  6. Broiled tilapia served over whole-grain pasta tossed with spinach, olive oil, and garlic, topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice, served with a side salad
  7. Tuna noodle casserole with whole-grain noodles, broccoli, onions, and pureed butternut squash instead of cream
  8. Cucumber boats stuffed with tuna, crab, or shrimp salad made with mashed avocado, diced onion and bell pepper, lemon juice, paprika, and garlic powder
  9. Clam soup with pureed pumpkin and potato, low-sodium broth, bay leaves, and chopped onion and celery
  10. Baked almond and parmesan-crusted swai or tilapia served with baked sweet potato sticks and roasted green beans

You can also order seafood at restaurants. Here are some examples.

  1. Teriyaki bowl with salmon or shrimp, brown rice, and vegetables
  2. Fish with broccoli or fish and vegetables stir fry
  3. Bouillabaisse or French fish stew
  4. Ceviche with shrimp or fish
  5. Tandoori fish or prawns
  6. Greek grilled octopus or calamari
  7. Korean grilled sea bass with brown rice and vegetables
  8. Broiled red snapper
  9. Fish tagine
  10. Fish couscous

How Lark Can Help

Nutritious sources of protein can help support weight management, and it’s easier to find the right foods when you have the support you need. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for nutrition and physical activity coaching and tracking. Lark can help you make healthy choices and establish habits that fit into your lifestyle so you can lose weight and keep it off with or without GLP-1 medications.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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