Kate Williams, RD, LD
Two of my favorite hobbies are fishing and crabbing, which pair perfectly with one of my favorite foods to enjoy - seafood. Life near the Chesapeake Bay provides a wonderful opportunity to “catch and eat” versus “catch and release”. Coastal living brings the opportunity to enjoy fresh caught crabs, clams, shrimp and more during the peak season. Two years ago, I went clamming off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard for the first time. Now, I look forward to it every year.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines specifically recommend eating about 8 oz. of fish per week.1 This amount of seafood each week (from a variety of sources) contributes about 250mg of essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Eating these healthy omega-3s are associated with heart health benefits, as well as better infant health outcomes when fish is consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Dietary patterns that include seafood may also be associated with reduced risk of obesity.2 All great reasons to fit in fish two times a week!
Lean versus fatty fish
White-fleshed fish is one of the leanest sources of animal protein and is a healthful addition to the diet. This type of fish also tends to be mild in flavor, so it pairs well with many dishes. Higher fat fish are also an important part of a healthy diet because they provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are not able to be made by the body. Fish high in omega-3s (EPA and DHA) include: wild salmon from Alaska (fresh, frozen and canned), sardines, anchovies, farmed rainbow trout and albacore tuna from the U.S. and Canada. Omega-3s may reduce inflammation, triglycerides, blood pressure and stroke risk.3
Based on 21 commonly consumed fish, a 3oz. serving provides on average, a mere 115 calories and whopping 20 grams of protein. Although most fish contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they do not contribute saturated fat to the diet, a form of fat linked to increased risk for heart disease.
Looking for a good source of iron? A 3oz. serving of oysters and clams are an excellent source of iron while shrimp and scallops are good sources. Many fish and shellfish are also a good source of potassium, a nutrient related to heart health.
Fresh, frozen – both forms work
Did you know that two-thirds of fish consumed in America is ordered in restaurants?4 One main reason why people consume seafood away from home is that they are uncertain how to tell if seafood is fresh and concerns about preparation. Seafood can be expensive so we want to make sure to prepare/cook it correctly. To make your seafood meal cost effective, check your supermarket circular for seafood sales!
Shopping tips for fresh fish –
1. Should not have a strong, unfavorable odor
2. Choose fish with elastic, firm flesh
3. Skin should be moist and not faded
4. Use purchased fish within 2 days of purchase
Shopping tips for frozen fish –
1. Fish should be solidly frozen, without any appearance of freezer burn
2. Quality frozen fish should have little or no odor
3. Vacuum-packed plastic is best option
4. Thaw in refrigerator for 18-24 hours, or under cold water if quicker thaw is desired
For more information on selection, including specific species, like shellfish, click here.
Mercury and raw fish
Mercury - You may have heard that some fish contain higher levels of mercury (for example shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish) which can pose a health risk, in particular among pregnant women. Women who are not pregnant (and not planning on becoming pregnant) and men are at lower risk of mercury exposure. Consume fish with low-mercury levels, in the amounts recommended by the Dietary Guidelines (~8oz. per week) to reap health benefits without risk.
Raw fish – Keep in mind, eating raw fish can pose health concerns, especially those considered high risk (those with compromised immune systems or with decreased stomach acidity, as well as pregnant women, infants, young children and older adults). If you choose to eat raw fish, choose previously frozen fish, which kills potential parasites, however won’t protect against all harmful organisms.5
Fish Recipe Finds – compliments of Campbell’s Kitchen®
Flounder with Clams en PapilloteMediterranean Fish Soup
Fish with Pineapple SalsaFish Stuffing Bake
Seafood Tomato AlfredoHot Crab Salsa Dip
One of my favorite ways to prepare fish, is to simply grill fillets and top them with any Pace® specialty salsa. Another great protein swap is adding crab, mussels, scallops or shrimp in place of meat in a pasta with sauce dinner.
Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005