Going to the Grocery Store With Diabetes: The Fish Counter

There are people who absolutely love fish, any kind of fish, and never think twice about where it comes from or consuming too much of it. Then there are those that despise the smell of anything remotely fishy (or who are severely allergic to fish). Assuming you’re not allergic, let’s discuss some common seafood options and see if you can find at least one or two types of fish that you can try to fit in your diet. Seafood contains very high-quality protein and many varieties are a good source of iron and healthy fats, so it would be worth trying to incorporate it into a meal or two.

First, let me dispel the mercury concerns. If you are pregnant, yes, you should avoid the four fish that are highest in mercury, which are tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, and should not have more than 6 ounces per week of white (albacore) tuna. Unfortunately, many women stay away from all fish when they are pregnant. All this is doing is depriving mom and baby of essential omega-3 fatty acids (and other nutrients) that are important for the baby’s development and the new moms’ mental health. Unless you eat fish every single day and sometimes don’t know the source (that is to say, it could potentially be from areas with a lot of pollution, for instance), then you really don’t need to be overly concerned. According to the American Heart Association, you should aim for about 2–3 servings (around 3–4 ounces per serving) of fish, and particularly fatty fish, a week. Lower-mercury containing fish include salmon, tilapia, cod, or catfish, and fatty fish include salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna.


How should fish be cooked?
Eating anything raw poses a risk. And keep in mind that even if you order sushi from the highest-quality restaurant, you’re still taking a chance. For someone with diabetes, food poisoning can be doubly scary because of the potential effects on our blood sugars. Eat raw fish at your own risk, and know that if you are going to have it, it may be better consumed when you are close to your home base and not traveling, so as to reduce the potential for any severe illness while you are on the road.

Anything on a menu that has the words “fried” or “basted” is probably going to be high in fat. Try especially to stay away from fish that is breaded and fried, as this is where the carbs, saturated fat, and sodium can really start to pile on. Going for fish that is either “broiled,” “baked,” “roasted,” “poached,” or “grilled” will most likely be a better option. Also be aware that cooking at higher temperatures can reduce the levels of some nutrients. If the fish is cooked in a healthful manner and laid on top of some fresh roasted veggies and rice, this can be one of the healthiest meals you can eat while dining out.

Diabetes and fish consumption
People with diabetes are at higher risk of cardiovascular complications than those without diabetes. Fish provides a great source of lean protein that is a smart way to fill our plate instead of with too many carbohydrates. Fish also is loaded with healthy fats, as mentioned previously, that fight inflammation and help improve heart health.

Salmon is among the most popular fish choices when dining out. There is some question about farm-raised versus wild-caught salmon. Putting aside the environmental impact for a moment, let’s consider the nutrition profile of each. Farm-raised is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in mercury, while wild-caught is higher in lean protein and lower in calories. Keep in mind that if you opt for farm raised, it would be wise to find out about the growing practices of the farm where your fish was raised to assure that they are environmentally sustainable and aren’t doing more harm than good.

First and foremost, always check with your doctor or dietitian about whether or not it would be beneficial for you to take a fish oil supplement. For one, you can actually consume too much of a good thing, and also, any over-the-counter supplements can potentially interact with medication you are on. If you are given the green light to include fish oil supplements in your diet, note that there are some great varieties available now that don’t come with the side effect of fish oil burps.

Next week, let’s continue our look at healthy fats and talk about the nuts, olives, and oils at the grocery store.