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Friday, February 1, 2013

Seafood: A Healthy Choice for Your Heart and More

Nan Jensen
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

February is American Heart Month, a great time to do something good for your health and including more seafood in your diet is a way to do just that. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that consumers eat 8 or more ounces of a variety of seafood each week. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times per week. That’s because seafood is rich in nutrients and low in calories. Most lean or lower fat species of fish, such as cod, flounder, and sole, contain 100 calories or less per 3 ounce cooked portion. Even fish like mackerel, herring, and salmon which are higher in fat contain approximately 200 calories or less in a 3 ounce cooked serving. Most of the fat in seafood is unsaturated, and it contains a type of polyunsaturated fat, called omega-3 fatty acids. The fat reduces the risk of heart disease, decreases levels of some types of blood fats and possibly cholesterol, contributes to brain development in infants and children and helps build muscles and tissues.

Seafood contains a high-quality protein that is easier to digest because it has less connective tissue than red meats and poultry. For certain groups of people such as the elderly who may have difficulty chewing or digesting their food, seafood can be a good choice to help them meet their daily protein needs. While the health benefits of seafood far outweigh the risks, it is important to follow these food safety guidelines.

  • Keep fish refrigerated below 40° until ready to use. 
  • Separate cooked and raw seafood and wash utensils before re-using. 
  • Wash hands before and after handling raw or cooked food. 
  • Cook seafood thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F for at least 15 seconds. Properly cooked seafood should be moist and opaque throughout. 
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid holding temperatures of 40-140°F. 
  • Purchase seafood from retailers that have high standards for quality and sanitation. 
  • Remove the skin from fish and trim the fat to reduce exposure to PCBs, pesticides or other chemicals. Pregnant women, those who intent to become pregnant and children should not consume. 
  • Do not eat swordfish, tilefish, shark, or king mackerel because of the higher levels of mercury if you are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant. Children should avoid these as well. 

For more information go to Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices at

Join us for a workshop on seafood called From Market to Menu: Incorporating Seafood into your Heart-Healthy Diet. Register at


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