Fish Has Amazing Health Benefits, But Americans Aren’t Eating Nearly Enough
Discover some easy, tasty ways to include more fish and seafood in your diet
Fish and shellfish are among the healthiest foods you can reel into a grocery cart. Rich in protein, they're especially good for your heart and brain. But according to the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, even seafood lovers aren’t eating enough fish.
Studies have found the average American only gets half the amount of seafood he or she should. “The recommendation for everyone is to have two servings of fish or shellfish each week,” says Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, a consulting dietitian for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). Most folks eat just one, and many women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat even less fish. (A serving is 3 to 3.5 ounces.)
Why are fish and shellfish so vital to a healthy diet? Besides being rich in protein and omega 3 fats, seafood is brimming with vitamin B12, iron and selenium. “It’s one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which is important for bone development,” adds Kleiner.
What's the catch?
There are several possible reasons Americans aren’t eating enough fish and shellfish. Kleiner says surveys show people don’t know what to do with it. “That confusion may start in the grocery store,” she says. “Folks don’t know what to buy — fresh or frozen, for example.” And they may feel fish is too pricey to be part of a regular diet. Kleiner says there are easy work-arounds to both of these issues.
Related: How to Buy Safe, Sustainable Fish
“Canned and pouched seafood are both affordable and easy to work with,” she says, “and frozen fish tends to be more budget-friendly.” In fact, much of the “fresh” fish displayed in seafood section of the supermarket is actually thawed after being flash-frozen right after being caught.
Related: How to Clean Mussels
Kleiner recommends thinking beyond dishes like poached salmon and grilled swordfish. Use seafood instead of beef or pork in recipes you make each week. “Have a tuna burger instead of a hamburger,” she suggests, “or put salmon in a salad or in fajitas. Add canned tuna to spaghetti sauce and serve it over pasta.”
Or dip a toe into the water with one of these tasty recipes from NFI.
Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
Grilled shrimp and crunchy slaw are tucked into warm corn tortillas along with a flavorful chipotle mayo.
- 3 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1⁄3 cup light mayonnaise
- 1⁄2 chipotle pepper en adobo, minced into a puree*
- 1 lb medium peeled and deveined shrimp
- 2 limes, divided
- 1⁄4 tsp chili powder
- 1⁄2 medium green cabbage, finely shredded
- 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
- 3⁄4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 corn tortillas
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise and chipotle pepper; set aside. In a medium bowl, toss together shrimp, juice of 1 lime and chili powder; set aside. In a large bowl, combine shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro and the juice of the remaining lime; toss well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high. Lay shrimp in the pan and cook on one side until lightly brown, about 1-2 minutes. Turn shrimp over and cook on second side until done, for about 1-2 additional minutes. The shrimp are cooked thoroughly when pinkish and opaque in color. Warm tortillas, as desired.
To assemble, spread a few teaspoons of the chipotle mayo along the center of a warmed corn tortilla. Lay 3 or 4 shrimp across the mayo. Top with a generous spoonful of the cabbage slaw. Serve additional slaw as a side salad. Makes 4 servings (2 tacos each). (Photo: National Fisheries Institute)
Nutrition per serving: 306 calories, 10 g total fat (1.5 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated, 3.7 g polyunsaturated), 146 mg cholesterol, 987 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 8 g dietary fiber, 21 g protein
*Chipotle peppers en adobo are sold in small cans in the Mexican food section of most supermarkets.
One-half of a minced chipotle pepper measures about half of a tablespoon.
Farro, Tuna and Fennel Salad with Crumbled Feta
Canned tuna and farro star in this Mediterranean-style dish. Feel free to sub 1 1/2 cups of another whole grain for the farro.
- 1⁄2 cup farro, uncooked
- 1 (5-oz.) can tuna, drained
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1⁄2 large bulb fennel, cut in half, cored and sliced very thin 2 generous handfuls baby arugula
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1⁄4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook farro according to package directions. Drain well if any cooking water remains.
Transfer farro to a large bowl. Add tuna (flake with a fork), chickpeas, fennel, arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin and salt. Toss well.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl or small platter and sprinkle feta over the top. Makes enough lunch or a light supper for 4 or as a side dish for 6. (Photo: National Fisheries Institute)
Nutrition per serving (main entrée): 310 calories, 12 g total fat (3 g saturated, 6 g monounsaturated, 1.5
g polyunsaturated), 22 mg cholesterol, 316 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 8 g dietary fiber, 18 g protein