Even as Americans eat more seafood each year, they still fall significantly below the United States Department of Agriculture recommendation – averaging just 16.1 pounds per person each year (or about five ounces each week). The current dietary guidelines for Americans suggest adults should aim for at least eight ounces of seafood a week – or 26 pounds per person per year. Researchers estimate that only 10-20% of Americans meet the USDA guideline.
Surveys show that consumers know the health benefits and that they should eat more seafood, but they often feel like they don’t know enough about it to comfortably purchase it, nor do they know how to cook it. Even people otherwise keeping a healthy diet sometimes miss the opportunity to get the protein and nutrients they need because they don’t know where to start.
Thankfully, the many different types of fish and shellfish and various ways to prepare them make it easy to cook seafood in a way that’s comfortable for any level of cook, matches to a variety of flavors, and can be incorporated into all types of diets.
Around the world, more than three billion people get 20% of their average protein intake from seafood, and armed with a little information, Americans can join their peers around the world in making seafood an affordable, healthful, addition to their menu.
Getting Started with Fish: Keep it Simple
Many Americans learn to eat seafood at restaurants, where a perfectly cooked fillet with crisp skin and tender interior land in front of them, as if by magic. But commercial stoves make getting those two textures simultaneously easier and it still takes practice (and a few tricks), so first-time fish cooks can make find more seafood success by starting with simpler recipes.
When it comes to seafood, uncomplicated cooking doesn’t mean unimpressive. Tossing frozen shrimp into soups, pasta sauces, or stews near the end of cooking takes no skill and no extra time, while slow-roasting fatty fish in the oven requires little thought – even if forgotten about, it rarely overcooks. Poaching, steaming, deep-frying, and cooking sous-vide all turn out fish with excellent texture on a first try.
Get used to cooking fish and become more comfortable with techniques with the many recipes on the KnowSeafood website. As you work toward mastering seafood skills, relish the benefits by enjoying all the great-tasting dishes you make in the process.
Seafood is Versatile
Seafood incorporates easily into almost any dish, either adding a little extra protein or subbing in for meat to lighten it up a smidge. Whether banging out a crab eggs Benedict for breakfast, adding a few slices of seared tuna as protein on top of a light lunch salad, or stirring shrimp into a spicy curry for dinner, you can employ the versatility of seafood to integrate it into your usual routine.
Because people all over the world eat seafood, in all types of cuisines, increasing your seafood consumption infuses your meals with tons of exciting textures and flavors. But you can get started with seafood in a more familiar way by adding a little bit of fish or shellfish to your favorite dishes and finding fun new spins on them.
Frozen Fish is Freshest
Seafood savvy shoppers prefer frozen fish. As backwards as it sounds, frozen fish stays fresh until convenient to cook and often costs less than the products labeled as fresh. While people often believe that the freshness of seafood depends on the time elapsed since it came out of the water, the actual best measure of freshness comes from how long it spent un-frozen out of the water and how many times it experienced a freeze-thaw cycle. High-quality freezing fish keeps the nutrients, texture, and flavor intact, while all of that degrades during any time spent simply refrigerated. Unless you purchase directly from the dock and take it right home, your seafood likely stays fresher if frozen.
The key to buying frozen seafood, though, comes from making sure it stays frozen. Short supply chains like KnowSeafood’s mean that the product is portioned before freezing and stays frozen until you thaw it yourself to cook it. Other supply chains might freeze the fish right away, but thaw it to process, then re-freeze, while supermarkets may thaw fish so it looks to be fresh to shoppers.
Beyond just the freshest way to buy fish, frozen seafood adds convenience because a well-stocked freezer means you always have a quick dinner on hand without planning ahead. You can slowly thaw seafood the night before, quickly thaw it minutes before cooking, or even cook many types of seafood straight from frozen.
Sustainable Seafood is Good for the Environment
Sustainable seafood provides a healthful, environmentally friendly option for including animal protein in your diet. Eating seafood helps combat climate change and contributes to the health of the environment – as long as you take care to eat only sustainable seafood. Fish and shellfish farmed or harvested in a sustainable manner make for an ideal alternative to meat, whose production involves heavy consumption and often pollution. Meanwhile, many shellfish farms actually help to clean up and improve the water around them. The same amount of energy put into fish produces almost three times more meat than chicken – and more than six times what it will produce for beef.
Seafood is Good for You
Most people know, vaguely, that seafood has many health advantages, but understanding the full slate of how many different ways it can benefit your body boggles the mind. The high-quality, often quite lean protein makes it a significant and easy way to amp up protein in your diet without adding unnecessary fats. But it does add tons of essential nutrients, including more vitamin B12 and vitamin D than any other food, iron, and minerals including selenium, zinc, and iodine. Many fatty fish supply omega-3 fatty acids, considered essential for brain and eye development. Fatty fish sounds like something someone who worries about their heart should avoid, but fish are extremely heart-healthy and eating them has been shown to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Listing the health benefits of eating seafood sounds like a list of miracle cures – it helps you sleep, improves brain function, reduces asthma in children, combats autoimmune diseases, and treats depression – but scientists found evidence of all of this. One study even concluded that eating seafood a few times per week reduces the risk of death from any health-related cause by 17%.
Putting a Price on Quality
Americans often consider seafood expensive, but savvy shoppers find cost-effective ways to add it to their regular dinner rotations. When compared to other proteins of the same quality, it looks more favorable: if you compare a wild Alaska salmon with supermarket factory farm chicken, it seems expensive. But if you compare sustainable seafood with similarly high-quality meats, the gap shrinks. Purchasing frozen fish and buying in bigger batches both help cut down on costs. Look for seasonal specials and remember that even if you spend a little more now, you could be saving the earth and your health.