The Mediterranean diet is hallmarked for longevity and reduced risk of chronic disease. Interestingly, seafood is a dietary staple in Mediterranean regions and undoubtedly a contributor to the associated health benefits. Despite this, seafood is often ear marked for special occasions and not on weekly rotation in many households. Considering seafood is not only delicious but also a nutrient dense option, seafood should be staple in our diets!
Health Benefits of Seafood
Source of protein: seafood is a source of protein comparable to chicken or red meat
|Seafood Protein Content per 100g||Other Animal Protein Content per 100g|
Lower in Fat: some seafood is lower in total and saturated fats and cholesterol compared to animal protein such as lean and fatty cuts of beef and chicken.
Lower in Kilojoules: due to the lowered fat content compared to other animal protein, seafood is naturally lower in kilojoules and a perfect choice for a lighter meal option.
Source of omega-3: seafood especially fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, mullet) is a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are cardioprotective, neuroprotective and essential for skin, emotional and hormone health. They cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through the diet.
Rich in trace minerals and vitamins: including iodine, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamins B, D, E, B3 and B6, all of which are important to be receiving through the diet.
What about mercury?
A lot of concern is raised around the mercury content of fish. Majority of fish, both wild and farmed contain some level of mercury. However, higher levels are found in larger fish because of the prey they consume along the food chain. Opting for smaller fish over larger varieties (eg whiting over tuna and swordfish) and mixing up seafood choice are the best ways to safeguard against excess mercury consumption.
Farmed vs Wild?
Whilst it is always best to opt for wild caught fish, it is not always possible. Wild caught fish is lower in containments such as polychlorinated biphenyls and may have a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, thus less inflammatory. However, inclusion of seafood regularly in the diet will provide overall health benefits and lack of access to wild caught fish should not been seen as a barrier.
What does seafood sustainability mean?
According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) ‘sustainable seafood’ means fish or shellfish that reaches our plates with minimal impact upon fish populations or the wider marine environment.
Some seafood varieties have been depleted due to overfishing and high consumer demand. This has resulted in an increase in fish farming. Furthermore, the method of catching certain varieties may have environmental impacts. For example pole-and-line caught tuna is a more sustainable option as it is more selective and other creatures are rarely caught at the same time. For more information read: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/news/oceans/Top-6-reasons-to-choose-pole-and-line-tuna/ & http://www.sustainabletable.org.au/Portals/0/Seafood%20and%20produce%20guide_web.pdf
As the AMCS say “the fish we choose today will directly affect the health of our oceans tomorrow.” Next time you’re at the Fish Mongers, try selecting a species that is not currently being over fished; best choices are:
- Australian sardine
- Blue swimmer crab
- Calamari (squid)
Canned fish is always a quick and easy option when it comes meal planning. From a health perspective always select varieties in olive oil and/or spring water. From an environmental perspective some good brands to look out for are
- Vital Choice
- Paramount wild salmon
- Good Fish – in glass jars
How much should we eat?
We should consume at least 2 portions of seafood weekly, especially omega-3 rich fatty fish. Furthermore, consuming a wide variety of seafood will assist in maximising the associated health benefits.
Easy and delicious ways to add seafood to your diet:
- Top a salad wrap/sandwich with salmon at lunch
- Try sardines and avocado on toast instead of eggs
- Stir a can of salmon through quinoa and roast vegetables for a quick meal
- Chop prawns roughly and stir-fry to make san choy bau
- Snack on cooked cooled prawns with some mango
- Make a fresh mango, avocado and prawn salad
- Try rice paper rolls with tuna or prawns as a light lunch
- Bake a fillet of fish in paper and serve with a simple salad
- Swap chicken or beef for salmon/squid next time you’re doing a stir-fry
- When eating out – go for the seafood option!
Here is a quick guide to check what’s in season: http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au/FISHline/SeasonalityCalendar/tabid/96/Default.aspx
If you’re inspired to serve up some seafood try my refreshing Calamari Noodle Salad with Lychee Dressing, perfect as a light lunch or dinner – http://www.goodchefbadchef.com.au/recipe/calamari-noodle-salad-with-lychee-dressing/
If you feel further guidance and support around coming up with a plan, my Falling In Love With Food program provides a weekly plan, recipes, shopping lists and food diary which provides the resources needed and teaches the foundations of how to create a healthy routine. To find out more, head over to https://www.zoebingleypullin.com/nutritionist-services/on-line-program-8/
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, viewed 2nd November 2015, http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/index.php.
Viscogliosi, G, Cipriani, E, Liguori, M, Marigliano, B, Saliola, M, Ettorre, E & Andreozzi, P 2013, ‘Mediterranean Dietary Patterns Adherence: Associations with Prediabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Related Microinflammation,’ Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 210-216, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23451814>.