WOMEN AND SEAFOOD: GET HOOKED.
Seafood is good for the heart and many of us don’t eat enough, including women. We thought we’d look at women in particular because we often overlook our heart health, and because women are still major influencers on food choices in households. It’s time we got hooked in seafood, both for ourselves and our families.
While plant foods are attracting a lot of attention (and for good reasons) we seem to have forgotten that seafood is a superfood. Fish and seafood are staple foods in the Mediterranean diet considered to be one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. A high seafood intake is also thought to contribute to the healthiness of the traditional Japanese diet. Women should eat more seafood because it:
- Is a nutrient-dense core food: Seafood provides essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium (in fish bones), B12 and omega-3 fats, just to name a few.
- Supports healthy pregnancy: Eating enough omega-3s during pregnancy and breast-feeding is important for optimal child brain development and may even affect child intelligence.
- Helps protect against the biggest killer in the world: Eating fish and seafood regularly reduces your risk of coronary heart disease.
Nutrition guidelines around the world suggest adults eat two serves a week. One serve is 100g (3½oz) of cooked (or 115g/4oz raw) seafood which is around the size of your hand, or the amount in a small can. While battered and deep-fried fish ’n’ chips are delicious, steamed, broiled/grilled, baked or pan-fried fish are healthier options. Be sure to serve with plenty of vegetables or salad to boost the health benefits of the meal even more.
There is a huge variety of seafood to choose from but there are times women need to be selective. If you’re pregnant, avoid raw fish (e.g. sashimi, sushi), pre-cooked prawns and smoked salmon due to the risk of listeria (a bacteria that can cause problems for the unborn child if the mother becomes infected). Seafood is a nutritionally important food during pregnancy but some species contain high levels of mercury and some caution is required. Check your local health authority for which species to limit or avoid but keep in mind most are OK. In general, predator fish species at the top of the food chain accumulate higher levels of mercury – smaller fish species are lower in mercury. Canned fish products are not high in mercury.
WHAT ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?
Choosing sustainable seafood is important to ensure an ongoing supply for future generations. Look for sustainability logos on-pack when shopping for packaged seafood, such as the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) logo. Check out the sustainability status of fresh fish and seafood in your country via websites or apps, such as the SAFS (Status of Australian Fish Stocks).
THE DISH ON FISH
- Seafood provides important nutrients for women, especially during pregnancy.
- Aim to eat seafood twice a week.
- During pregnancy, avoid seafood with high mercury content and raw fish due to risk of listeria.
- Choose sustainable seafood options.
- Fish intake risks and benefits
- Marine Stewardship Council www.msc.org
- Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy
Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious. Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.