New Year’s Resolutions often include Lose Weight and Exercise More – often accompanied by unattainable goals that leads to restrictive dieting that is a set-up for failure. This year, some people are resolving instead to Eat Better and Be Healthier - more attainable goals that may result in losing weight. Eating seafood at least twice a week is good for your health – heart, brain, and bones – and is also helpful in losing or maintaining a healthy weight.
The healthiest diets are the ones that are easy to follow (so you don’t quit), sustainable long-term (can be followed for a lifetime) and are good for you. For the fifth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report ranks the Mediterranean diet as the Best Overall. Foods to be eaten regularly include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, olive oil, an occasional glass of wine, while limiting processed foods or added sugars. Other high-ranking diets include the DASH diet (known for lowering blood pressure), Flexitarian diet, and MIND diet (which combines the Mediterranean and DASH diets with a focus on brain health). What these diets have in common is a focus on whole foods (including fruits and vegetables) and while they aim to reduce the consumption of added sugars and processed foods, they do not tell you what not to eat.
Research has shown that fish ranks high on the Satiety Index of Common Foods, satiety being the sense of being satisfied and full after eating. Fish ranks higher than other proteins as far as satiety (a diet advantage), and some flaky white fish (like halibut) are bested only by potatoes. Other seafood on the list include oysters, salmon, scallops, light canned tuna, and Pacific cod. If you are trying not only to eat well but also to lose weight, adding seafood to the menu is a simple step to take. Eat seafood at least two or three times per week. Try eating seafood three or four times a week for two weeks or maybe a month.
Seafood is a low-calorie protein that is packed with vitamins and minerals. Different types of fish (and other seafood, e.g., oysters, clams, shrimp) have varying levels of protein, iron, iodine, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamins B6 and B12, selenium, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals.
Seafood is versatile and can be included in any meal – replacing higher fat proteins. If you think of seafood as the protein, you can add the other needed nutrients in a variety of ways (like noodle bowls with vegetables and a protein or stir-fried vegetables over rice with a protein). It’s easy to prepare extra portions of seafood at one meal to be eaten the next day. Here are some examples of how seafood can be incorporated into each meal.
To be sure you’re getting the nutrition you need daily, you can consult the website of the US Department of Agriculture - FoodData Central - where you can search the nutritional values of a large variety of foods. Another useful website is Seafood Health Facts: Making smart choices (a joint project by the Universities of Oregon State, Cornell, Delaware, Rhode Island, Florida, and California and the Community Seafood Initiative).
How you prepare seafood is important if you’re trying to lose weight (e.g., you probably want to avoid fried fish). The folks at Eat This Not That have compiled 61 healthy fish recipes for weight loss that look super tasty. The Palm Beach Diet lists five healthy fish (with links to recipes) for a low carb diet: salmon, cod, tuna, halibut, and sardines. According to Good Housekeeping, the healthiest fish to eat are salmon, tuna (skipjack), cod, sardines, halibut, mahi-mahi, unagi (eel), oysters, herring, shrimp, and scallops.
Please talk with your health care provider about any complementary health approaches you use and before you make big changes in your usual exercise routine or your diet. The Food and Drug Administration says that women who are or might become pregnant and young children should avoid king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and bigeye tuna.