Stocking Your Healthful Freezer: Meat, Poultry, and Fish (Part 9)

Summer’s over. You might be thinking wistfully of grilled salmon or lobster or steamed clams. Yes, seafood traditionally seems to be “summertime” food, but there’s no reason that you can’t eat it year round. The “catch” is knowing how to select fish and seafood, whether it’s fresh or frozen.

Why Eat Seafood?
Most people know that fish, in general, is good for you. For a long time, you’ve been hearing about fish oils, or omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk of heart disease and arrhythmias, lower your triglycerides (a type of blood fat), and even lower your blood pressure a little. Besides the omega-3s, though, fish is packed with other nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, and various minerals. Fish and other seafood are low in saturated fat, which is an added plus. And let’s clear up the myth about shrimp and cholesterol: Yes, shrimp does contain some cholesterol (4 large shrimp contain 43 milligrams). But, shrimp is very low in saturated fat. Remember that it’s the saturated fat, and not so much the cholesterol, in food that makes a difference in your blood cholesterol. So, you’re much better off eating shrimp than a hamburger (just avoid the breaded, fried shrimp).

Is Fish Safe to Eat?
Unfortunately, for all the good things in fish, there are sometimes harmful things, too. Fish may contain toxic chemicals, including mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins, thanks to pollutants in our environment. In fact, pretty much all fish and shellfish contain mercury and PCBs (which have been banned since the late 1970’s). But studies have shown that the health benefits of eating seafood outweigh any of the risks. To be on the safe side, the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued guidelines for consuming fish (check out the EPA’s Web site[1] for specifics). So while it may seem scary to eat seafood, don’t let it stop you from including it in your eating plan.

How to Choose Fish


Allow frozen fish to thaw in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or run it under cold water for a speedier thaw. Cook your seafood as soon as possible to avoid dryness. And, as you know, use healthful cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, baking, or poaching. Steer clear of breaded, fried fish and seafood. Try to eat seafood at least twice a week. Don’t forget, too, that canned fish is OK, especially if you can’t get good fresh or frozen fish in your area.

  1. EPA’s Web site:

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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