Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department
October is National Seafood month making it a great time to recognize the need to eat this healthy protein source more regularly. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing seafood consumption by replacing other meat sources with fish. Since seafood is lower in fat, sodium and calories and nutrient dense it’s a good choice for heart health, immunity and supporting a healthy body. For adults it is recommended that seafood be consumed 2-3 times per week, at least, in four-ounce servings for a minimum of 8 ounces per week. This endorsement is based on a 2,000-calorie diet and may be more or less, depending on individual caloric needs. For children under 2 consult the child’s doctor or the academy for pediatrics. For children over two years of age the recommendation is 1 ounce twice a week and as children age, slowly increase the amounts. No recommendation is given for the increase but by age 11 it is recommended that children eat 4 ounces 2-3 times per week like adults. Just like vegetables and fruits it is important to eat a variety of seafood. Coastal New Jersey is home to quality New Jersey Seafood and supports the local economy as well as providing a lean protein option to support optimal health.
As a nutrient dense high protein food seafood has relatively low levels of total fat, saturated fat, sodium, and calories as compared to other foods. Healthy preparation methods are essential for keeping seafood’s nutritional benefits, so avoid adding fat or deep frying for best nutritional value. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and numerous studies have associated diets that are low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol with reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Seafood is a good example of a heart healthy food and it is rich in vitamins and minerals that also boost the immune system, brain health and nervous system. Other vitamins of note in fish are vitamin D which helps with calcium absorption that support strong bones, teeth, heart health, muscles, and nerves. Fish is rich in vitamin B12 which helps to maintain healthy nerve cells, support brain function and the production of DNA & RNA. Just 3oz of clams contains 84mcg of B12. Finding ways to add seafood each week can contribute to better overall health and can be done easily by adding it to casseroles, as a substitute for other meats in pasta dishes, as a pizza topper or main dish.
Seafood can be cost prohibitive, but with rising costs and shortages for other meats it is a good time to add more fish into weekly meals. Just like fruits and veggies that are less expensive when in season, seafood can be less expensive when in season too. Try a less costly option that is in season to save money when purchasing New Jersey Seafood. Stocking up when it is on sale or in season is another way to save, try buying extra of that fish when it’s cheaper and freeze it for later. Try to save more expensive seafood for a special occasion which will make it more cost effective and exciting to enjoy on those special occasions. White fish makes a good filler that is less expensive, try adding a flaky white fish as a meal instead of more costly options, white fish is great in tacos, stews, and casseroles. Finally try something new, ask the fish monger or grocer what the seafood tastes like, ask if its mild or flaky when cooked and how to cook it. For cooking videos and recipes that are specific to NJ seafood visit: https://vimeo.com/getmovinggethealthynj