Fact: Americans are not getting enough healthy seafood. “Yet so much research points to the fact that we’ll live longer, healthier lives if we eat more,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, food and nutrition expert, and author of Eating in Color. To help us make better food choices for ourselves, we asked for Largeman-Roth’s top seafood and fatty fish recommendations based on their health benefits. We’re also including some preparation tips and mouth-watering recipes to inspire your seafood journey whether that’s for weight loss or just a quest to be healthier.
What is fatty fish?
The American Heart Association recommends eating two (3.5 ounces, cooked) servings of fatty fish per week. Fatty fish include salmon, albacore tuna (the canned stuff), mackerel, herring, lake trout, and sardines.
Fish is a great source of protein, but its real benefit is the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, Largeman-Roth says. Not only do omega-3s lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, they are also vital for brain health. Omega-3 fats build cell membranes throughout the body and the brain and perform an anti-inflammatory function in the body, which helps promote healthier brain cells.
Shrimp is by far the easiest and fastest of all types of seafood to cook: Just two minutes per side and dinner’s ready (or 20 minutes total to make a saucy shrimp and noodle stir-fry). And it’s kid-friendly, too. “I like using shrimp in tacos, salads, and grilled shrimp panzanella,” says Largeman-Roth. “I get them cleaned but keep the tails on for more flavor.” Shrimp is very low in calories with only 84 calories per 3-ounce serving. Plus they contain 20 grams of protein, high amounts of the minerals iron and zinc, and 300 milligrams of omega-3s.
It seems like it’s only for special occasions, but crab is something you should be enjoying year-round (that is if you actually know how to break apart and eat crab). Depending on the variety, crab ranges from 80 to 100 calories per 3-ounce serving and offers 16 to 20 grams of protein plus 350 to 400 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA + EPA). Pro tip: Cooking with crab becomes much more affordable when you use it in recipes like quick and easy crab cakes or creamy crab bisque.
Salmon is loaded with omega-3s and is super simple to cook. If you don’t believe us, try making a simple sheet pan salmon with potatoes and broccolini for starters. Or you could just drizzle a little olive oil on top of the fillet, sprinkle some sea salt on top, and roast it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 F. Largeman-Roth recommends opting for Alaskan salmon whenever possible because it’s wild-caught and sustainable.
Canned Albacore Tuna
“I’m a big fan of canned tuna because it’s portable and so versatile,” says Largeman-Roth. You can add it to salads, use it in sandwiches and wraps, and even top fresh pasta with it. A 2-ounce serving of canned albacore (half of a can) has just 60 calories, is loaded with 13 grams of protein, and is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. “You don’t need to load it up with mayo for it to be delicious: I love mixing canned tuna with EVOO, fresh lemon juice, capers, chopped Italian parsley, peas, and orecchiette pasta. It’s excellent hot or at room temp.”
Scallops can be intimidating to cook because they don’t change color like shrimp do, and an overcooked scallop is a very sad thing. But perfectly cooked scallops are easier than you think. You just need to pat them dry with paper towels first, then add them to a very hot, oiled pan and get a good sear on both sides until golden (2 to 3 minutes per side). Serve them over quinoa, garbanzo pasta, or salad. A 3-ounce serving of scallops (3 to 4 scallops) has about 96 calories, 12 grams of protein, and up to 90 milligrams of the brain-boosting nutrient choline.
Cod is a great option for people who think they don’t like the flavor of fish—you’ll barely taste it if you follow a baked cod recipe paired with tomatoes and capers. If you prefer to keep things simple, cod fillets can be coated in a light breading and baked for 10 to 12 minutes at 450 F. It’s also excellent in fish tacos. Atlantic Cod is incredibly mild and flakey and has just 70 calories per 3-ounce serving and 17 grams of protein, plus it doesn’t have any total fat or saturated fat.