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Seafood – A Smart Choice For Diabetes

It's a great time of year to enjoy some fresh seafood. Whether you buy it fresh from the counter at the supermarket, catch your own, or prefer to buy it frozen, seafood is a great addition to your meal plan.

Read on and we'll give you the skinny on omega-3s and some guidelines for how much seafood you should be eating to optimize your health. In addition, learn what foods to pair with your seafood when putting a meal together.

Why is seafood such a great choice for diabetes?

  • Most fish and seafood is low in unhealthy saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • The fat that it contains is mostly healthy, unsaturated fat.
  • Seafood is a natural source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It’s packed with high-quality protein.
  • Seafood itself does not have any carbohydrate, so it will not cause blood glucose to rise.
  • Most fish cooks quickly and makes for an easy meal that your whole family will enjoy!

How much seafood should I eat each week?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to eat more seafood by replacing of some of the meat and poultry in our diets with a variety of fish and shellfish. Try to include a variety of seafood in your diet, and shoot for 2 or more servings per week.

The mercury level in certain types of fish is a concern for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These fish include: tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. The 2010 Guidelines also suggest that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding limit their intake of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week.

But, this group should still aim to have 8-12 ounces of fish per week that are known to be lower in mercury. Some popular types of fish in the U.S. that are low-mercury include: light canned tuna, salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic, and Pacific mackerel.

Research shows that the health benefits of consuming a variety of seafood 2 times per week outweigh the health risks associated with mercury found in fish in other groups. To minimize the amount of mercury you are exposed to, eating a variety of seafood is recommended.

The Skinny on Omega-3s

Some types of fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats may help to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing triglycerides, blood pressure, slowing hardening of arteries, and can also decrease the risk of arrhythmias. Sometimes, these fish high in omega-3s are called “fatty fish”.

Though fatty fish are a bit higher in calories than their lower-fat counterparts, they contain mostly good fats and minimal unhealthy saturated fats. We still consider them a great protein choice!

Fish that are particularly high in omega-3s include:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Albacore tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Halibut
  • Sardines

Besides fish, you can get in more omega-3s by eating walnuts, flax, or by cooking with vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, flaxseed, and walnut oil.

In addition to helping with heart health, omega-3s aid in fetal development during pregnancy, curb inflammation, they may protect against Parkinson's disease, and may reduce the risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. 

Pair it Up - Planning Tasty Meals

When seasoning seafood, think beyond salt and butter. Many fish and shellfish have a great natural flavor that can be enhanced by using fresh herbs, citrus juices, or salt-free spices. Below are some practical meal ideas, recipes, and other tips that will help you plan balanced meals - seafood included!

Meal Idea #1: Fish Tacos!

Steam fresh shrimp and cut them into bite-sized pieces when finished cooking. Toss the shrimp with a homemade dressing made with olive oil, white wine vinegar, fresh-squeezed lime juice, black pepper, and fresh cilantro. Wrap the shrimp in a corn tortilla with shredded romaine lettuce and pico de gallo for shrimp tacos. Add a side of lightly sautéed bell peppers and roasted corn.

Not a fan of shrimp? Try our Quick Fish Tacos, which call for tilapia filets instead of shellfish.

Meal Idea #2: A Quick Seafood Dinner

Try our Quick Broiled Cod recipe when you’re in a hurry. If you don’t like a “fishy” flavor, cod is a good choice since it has a mild taste. You can also use any white fish in this recipe if you want to substitute for the cod. Pair it up with a side of roasted potatoes and a serving of our Broccoli Almondine, another quick and easy recipe. Both of these recipes can be gluten-free options.

Meal Idea #3: Get Creative with Seafood with Pasta

It’s easy to make pasta primavera and simply add some shellfish to give your dish some protein. Cook up some whole wheat pasta and also cook your shellfish of choice. (This could be shrimp, mussels, clams or even scallops). Meanwhile, roast some yellow squash, zucchini, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. When you’ve cooked and drained the pasta, toss the fish and veggies with the pasta along with some no-salt added canned Italian-style diced tomatoes. Finish pasta with some parmesan cheese.

Another pasta and seafood combo: Serve our Spinach Pesto Halibut over a bed of whole wheat pasta, along with a side of cooked glazed carrots or grilled asparagus. 

Meal Idea #4: An Entree Salad With Seafood

Make salad your main course by adding some hearty grilled salmon to it. Include lots of leafy greens (choose from spinach, arugula, romaine, or mixed spring greens). Then add tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, and diced red onion. Top your salad with grilled salmon and some fat-free honey mustard dressing. Have a glass of skim milk and a side of whole wheat garlic bread with it!

If you want to fancy up this dish a bit, use our Dijon Salmon recipe to cook your fish.

Meal Idea #5: Seafood Salads

You can make a seafood salad with just about any fish, but tuna is particularly popular. Mix some light canned tuna with a bit of canola mayonnaise, lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and diced celery. Serve your tuna salad on whole wheat crackers or as a sandwich on whole wheat bread. Add some mustard, sliced tomato, and crunchy lettuce for extra flavor and texture. Have it for lunch with an apple and some carrot sticks with hummus.

Want more meal ideas?

  • Add your favorite fish to a homemade soup or stew.
  • Bring shrimp cocktail or our Mini Crab Bites as an appetizer to parties and other social gatherings.
  • Fire up the grill, and grill up some fresh filets for the family. Pair the filets with a mix of brown and wild rice or another whole grain and some roasted non-starchy veggies.
  • For a special occasion, celebrate with crab legs (especially if you can find them on sale!)
  • Try our Vegetable Paella and add your favorite seafood to it.

Want more seafood recipes? We have plenty right here on Recipes for Healthy Living:

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