Seafood dishes as medicine

salmon steak salad

From Chicken of the Sea.

Fish is not just the latest health food du jour. Research has proven that seafood, including salmon, mackerel and herring, contains essential proteins and fats that can prevent many diseases.

The government agrees. In 2015, it issued guidelines that suggest that Americans increase their seafood consumption to twice a week. Among its recommendations? Following an eating pattern that includes a variety of protein foods, including seafood.

Benefits for body and mind

What makes seafood a nutritional powerhouse? Consider the following:

1) It is low in calories and fat—approximately 100-200 calories per 3-oz cooked serving—so it helps contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. 

2) It contains omega-3 fatty acids—DHA and EPA—which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help to prevent certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. They also support brain health at all stages of life and are linked to improved cognitive performance among older adults. The richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon and tuna.

3) It is generally low in sodium and cholesterol. High levels of sodium and cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. It is also high in B vitamins, phosphorous and selenium.

Adding seafood to menus

These health attributes are a reason why fish is featured prominently in many diets, including the MIND diet, which U.S. News & World Report ranked fifth in best diets overall. The MIND diet, which combines the DASH and Mediterranean diets, aims to prevent Alzheimer’s disease with brain-healthy foods.

Seafood’s positive buzz has attracted Americans’ attention. Thirty-nine percent of consumers say they choose seafood over meat because they believe seafood is healthier than meat options, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report. And 31% of consumers say that a tactic they use to eat more healthfully is to integrate at least one healthy element in their meal, reports Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report. These statistics can be extrapolated to non-commercial settings such as higher education, hospital and senior living environments.

With more consumers associating seafood with health, there’s considerable opportunity for operators to menu better-for-you options, such as fish and seafood dishes, to appeal to these diners. Some examples include:

  • University of Texas’ Jester City Limits dining hall’s Baked Salmon Filet with Lemon Butter and Pecan Crusted Trout Filet dishes.
  • Beaumont Hospital – Dearborn, in Michigan, serves Herb Crusted Fish with a light herb sauce, and promotes it as being good for renal and cardiac diets.
  • Silverado Senior Living in Dallas offers up a Crispy Baked Fish with tarragon tartar sauce, spinach-tomato orzo and fresh vegetables.

More consumers are looking for healthy options that are prepared with real or natural ingredients, as well, which makes fish a shoo-in. Real butter in sauces, natural flavorings and fresh veggies are all great accompaniments for fish dishes.

Of course, seafood’s not only popular because it’s healthy—it also tastes great. The flavors in seafood make it an easy menu choice. The top flavors for fish and shellfish preparations that consumers are most likely to order, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report include:

  • Buttery: 61%
  • Savory: 45%
  • Spicy: 45%
  • Herbal: 40%

Become more of an expert on the health benefits of seafood with this free continuing education course, Seafood Savvy: Nutrition:

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