Seafood can help keep diet healthy

September 27, 2011|Lynn Little

Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthful diet. Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.  

A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development. That means that women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets because of the many nutritional benefits.  

In recent years evidence has emerged about the health benefits of consuming seafood. Therefore, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (www recommends that everyone choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.  

The guidelines then make a second recommendation for everyone to increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry. The guidelines suggest, based on calories, that we consume from 3 ounces to 7 ounces of seafood weekly.  

Three ounces of steamed shrimp, crab or lobster have only about 85 calories, and all are an excellent source of vitamin B-12. Because they're low in fat, they have only a small amount of healthful omega-3 fatty acids in them. The shrimp has some cholesterol, however, for most people, consuming more cholesterol just means your body will produce less of its own cholesterol.  

Consuming more saturated fat, from butter, cheese or other sources, could cause your blood cholesterol to rise. So, watch what you eat with shrimp, crab or lobster.  

Breading and frying three ounces of shrimp will add 120 calories to the dish. Melting 2 tablespoons of butter for your lobster will add 200 calories and saturated fat.  

Fish is a lean, low-calorie source of protein. However, some fish may contain chemicals that could pose health risks. Moderate, yet consistent, evidence shows that the health benefits from consuming a variety of fish and other seafood in the recommended amounts outweigh the health risks associated with methyl mercury, a heavy metal found in seafood in varying levels.

When contaminant levels are unsafe, consumption advisories might recommend that people limit or avoid eating certain species of fish caught in certain places. To learn more about the fish where you live, go to and click on fish consumption advisory. Or go to for information on fish caught in other waters.  

To achieve the goal from the Dietary Guidelines of choosing seafood at least twice a week as your main protein food, Choose MyPlate (www.choos suggests selecting seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout and herring. Some ideas for serving those choices would be:  

  •  Salmon steak or filet
  •  Salmon loaf
  •  Grilled or baked trout

For inexpensive, healthy fish recipes, visit recipefinder ( and search for fish.

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