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Dietitians Dish: Seafood good source for Omega-3 fatty acids

By By Stephanie Whitley
July 30, 2013 at 2:30 a.m.

Stephanie Whitley

Thursday starts another hot, summer month, and many South Texans will head out to the water for swimming, boating and lots of fishing.

Appropriately so, August is National Catfish Month. Because of our tasty natural resource, seafood and shellfish are, and should be, part of every American's diet. There are numerous health benefits for every age group.

It is recommended that adults consume 12 ounces of seafood each week. Eating the recommended amount of seafood each week is linked to decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity and high blood pressure.

Nutritionally, seafood is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, which include the B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, iodine and iron.

Seafood's protein is also digested more efficiently than meat because it has less connective tissue. What seafood is probably best know for is its source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

These are important to consume in the diet because our body cannot produce them, and we rely solely on dietary intake. There are many Omega-3 supplements on the market, but research has shown that the body receives more benefits if Omega-3 is provided through actual food.

The American Heart Association recommends 1-2 grams of Omega-3 a day. Taking more than 3 grams of Omega-3 a day should be done under physician supervision.

As always, any supplement should be discussed with your physician first. Omega-3 is an important part of decreasing cardiovascular risk, acts as an anti-inflammatory and contributes to the brain and vision development of infants and children.

Omega-3 is found in most seafood, however "fatty fish" usually contains more. For example, a 3-ounce serving of salmon (about the size of a deck of cards) contains about 1,238 mg of Omega-3. Canned white tuna has 535 mg per 3-ounce serving, while canned light tuna contains only 190 mg per 3-ounce serving.

Sources of Omega-3 per 3-ounce serving are shrimp, 122 mg; pollock, 383 mg; tilapia, 111 mg; catfish, 109 mg; crab, 196 mg; cod, 131 mg; clams, 124; and scallops, 169 mg, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database.

One nutrient that can be a concern when it comes to seafood is cholesterol. If one has cardiovascular disease, it is best to consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day. Otherwise, less than 300 mg a day is recommended. Most seafood contains less than 100 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving, however shrimp contains the highest, averaging 160 mg per three ounce serving.

That being said, make sure shrimp is not your only source of seafood. Keep mixing it up. Eating seafood on a regular basis can also be helpful in keeping or getting your waistline fit. Most 3-ounce servings of seafood are less than 100 calories, and "fatty fish" can provide up to 200 calories per three ounce serving.

Of course, this does not account for fried seafood, which will significantly increase calorie and fat intake. Another benefit of seafood is that most of the fat is polyunsaturated, the healthy fat.

A word to pregnant mothers, seafood can still be a healthy choice for you and your baby. Pregnant mothers should continue consuming 12 ounces of seafood a week, up to half of this can be albacore tuna.

Shark, king mackerel, tile fish and swordfish are high in mercury, which can be dangerous to the development of your baby and should never be consumed during pregnancy.

Now that you know all of the health benefits of seafood, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor after a long day of fishing even more.

Stephanie Whitley is a registered and licensed dietitian DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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