These Are the 6 Healthiest Types of Seafood
We're just fishing for a good time. And protein. And omega-3s. And a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke. You know?
Fact: Americans are not getting enough seafood. “And yet so much research points to the fact that we’ll live longer, healthier lives if we eat more," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, food and nutrition expert, and author of Eating in Color. The American Heart Association recommends eating two (3.5 ounces, cooked) servings of fatty fish per week, but only about 10 percent of us are getting there.
Fatty fish include salmon, albacore tuna (the canned stuff), mackerel, herring, lake trout, and sardines. Fish is a great source of protein, but its real benefit is the DHA omega-3 fatty acids it contains, Largeman-Roth says. Not only do omega-3s lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, they are also vital for brain health. Omega-3 fats build cell membranes throughout the body and the brain and perform an anti-inflammatory function in the body, which helps promote healthier brain cells. Omega-3 fats are essential for the development of a baby’s brain, so pregnant and breastfeeding moms should definitely eat low-mercury seafood picks.
Here are Largeman-Roth’s six top picks for seafood based on health, as well as sustainability. If you’re looking for more information on sustainable seafood options, check out Seafood Watch.
Shrimp is by far the easiest and fastest of all types of seafood to cook: just two minutes per side and dinner’s ready. And it's kid friendly, too. “I like using shrimp in tacos, salads, and Grilled Shrimp Panzanella,” says Largeman-Roth. “I get them cleaned, but keep the tails on for more flavor.” Shrimp is very low in calories, with only 84 calories per three-ounce serving. Plus they serve up 20 grams of protein, high amounts of the minerals iron and zinc, and 300 milligrams of omega-3s.
It seems like it’s only for special occasions, but crab is something you should be enjoying year-round. Depending on the variety, crab ranges from 80 to 100 calories per three-ounce serving and offers up 16 to 20 grams of protein, plus 350 to 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA + EPA). Even better? Alaskan crab is a Best Choice on the Seafood Watch list. Pro tip: cooking with crab becomes much more affordable when you use it in recipes, like crab cakes and crab bisque.
Salmon is loaded with omega-3s and is super simple to cook. Just drizzle a little olive oil on top of the fillet, sprinkle some sea salt on top, and roast it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400° F. Largeman-Roth recommends opting for Alaskan salmon whenever possible because it’s wild-caught and sustainable.
“I’m a big fan of canned tuna because it’s portable and so versatile,” says Largeman-Roth. You can add it to salads, use it in sandwiches and wraps, and even top fresh pasta with it. A two-ounce serving of canned albacore (half of a can) has just 60 calories, is loaded with 13 grams of protein, and is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. “You don’t need to load it up with mayo for it to be delicious: I love mixing canned tuna with EVOO, fresh lemon juice, capers, chopped Italian parsley, peas, and orecchiette pasta. It’s excellent hot or at room temp.”
Scallops can be intimidating to cook because they don’t change color like shrimp do, and an overcooked scallop is a very sad thing. But perfectly cooked scallops are easy. You just need to pat them dry with paper towels first, then add them to a very hot, oiled pan and get a good sear on both sides, until golden (2 to 3 minutes per side). Serve them over quinoa, garbanzo pasta or salad. A three-ounce serving of scallops (3 to 4 scallops) has about 96 calories, 12 grams protein and 22 milligrams of the brain-boosting nutrient choline.
Cod is a great option for people who think they don’t like the flavor of fish. Atlantic Cod is incredibly mild and flakey and has just 70 calories per three-ounce serving and 17 grams of protein, plus it doesn’t have any total fat or saturated fat. Cod fillets can be coated in a light breading and baked for 10 to 12 minutes at 450°F. It’s also excellent in fish tacos.