Seafood is highly nutritious and very beneficial health wise. Most seafood is low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; high in protein; low in calories (a 3-1/2 ounce serving of white-fleshed fish typically has less than 100 calories); and low in sodium. It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals and, as a bonus, it’s quick and easy to prepare.
Consequently, because fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, the American Heart Association and others recommend eating two 3-1/2 ounce servings of fish a week.
Note that because some fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish can contain mercury, consumption of those fish should be limited for most of us and avoided by some such as pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children under the age of 12. Other than that note of caution, seafood products should be considered safe, healthy, delicious, and nutritious sources of high-quality protein.
Don’t overcook your seafood. Fish cooks quickly and should be cooked only until the flesh turns opaque and flakes easily with a fork. If you overcook seafood it will toughen up and lose a lot of its natural flavors. A good rule of thumb to follow when preparing fish is to cook it about 10 minutes per inch of flesh, measured from the thickest part. (Conventional cooking only, not microwaving.)
Seafood can be cooked using a variety of methods besides traditional frying. Why not try poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, sautéing, or microwaving your next fish or shellfish meal? It’s healthier than frying and can be much more flavorful.
Poaching is really easy. Simply bring a seasoned liquid (water, milk, wine, etc.) to a boil then simmer it for about 10 minutes. Next add your fish, cover, and simmer until done.
Steaming is surprisingly simple. It’s especially easy if you happen to have one of those specially designed steaming pots. If not, don’t despair … just use a rack of some sort to suspend the seafood a couple of inches above the boiling water. Cover and steam until done.
For broiling, place your fish on a broiling pan and brush it with a sauce of melted margarine and/or olive oil combined with lemon juice and herbs and spices. Broil 4 or 5 inches from the heat source, without turning, until done.
Sautéing. In a frying pan, heat a little margarine and/or olive oil with a liquid such as water or white wine. Add some chopped mushrooms, green onions, lemon juice, and your favorite seafood. Sauté this mixture over medium high heat until it’s done.
An excellent method of cooking seafood is by microwaving. Just put the fish or shellfish in a microwave-safe dish, add seasonings, and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Cook for about 3 minutes per pound or follow the manufacturer’s directions. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and clean-up’s a cinch!
Herbs and spices can be used in place of salt and can be combined to produce flavorful seafood dishes with a creative flair. If you are not familiar with using herbs and spices, here’s a simple way to get started: Just combine ¼ teaspoon of 1 or 2 herbs and/or spices per pound of seafood.
Some common herbs and spices that work well with seafood are: allspice, sweet basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, celery seed/leaves, chervil, curry powder, dill seed/weed, fennel seed, garlic powder, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, and thyme.
Other seasonings like garlic, lemon, and wine can be combined with the herbs and spices with interesting results. Some good combinations are basil, marjoram, and oregano; garlic powder and lemon; or parsley and tarragon.
Be bold and creative and see what happens. Spice up your life with seafood! In today’s health conscious society we’re eating foods that are lower in calories, sodium, and fat; and consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, skim milk products, and low fat protein sources. Seafood fits right in and complements these new health trends.
A wide variety of seafood products are available which provide an excellent high protein source that is great for low calorie, low fat cooking.
Here are a few additional facts concerning the healthy aspects of eating seafood from the LSU AgCenter’s publication “Health Benefits of Seafood”:
- A 3 ounce serving of seafood provides 50-60% of an adult’s daily protein needs.
- All seafood is relatively low in fat.
- Most seafood is low in cholesterol except for shrimp, squid and fish roe.
- Seafood also provides the diet with iron, iodine, zinc, niacin, B-complex vitamins and phosphorous.
- Fatty species of fish provide generous amounts of vitamins A and D.
- Fish with bones, like canned salmon and sardines, are good sources of bone-building calcium.
- An average 3-ounce serving of fish cooked without fat has about 85 calories making it a low calorie food.
- Try not to add extra calories by frying or using cream or cheese-based sauces with seafood.
For more information concerning the nutritional benefits of seafood go to LSUAgCenter.com and search for "Health Benefits of Seafood" and download the publication of that name.
Remember, the American Heart Association and others say that seafood is a healthy and nutritious “heart food”.
Now, go cook-up and enjoy some healthy and delicious seafood … it’ll do you and your heart a lot of good.
Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach Specialist for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can "Friend" him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his "Tweets" on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.
Posted on Tue, July 15, 2014
by Alan Matherne Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach Specialist Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter