In addition to cooler weather, fall brings plenty of opportunities to celebrate eating seafood. October is National Seafood Month and National Pescatarian Month, both of which give a nod to enjoying more ﬁsh and shellﬁsh for their deliciously comforting taste and bountiful health beneﬁts. Plus, seafood features heavily in the Mediterranean Diet.
In fact, when a nutrition scientiﬁc advisory panel met in 2008 to update the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid ﬁrst introduced by Oldways and the Harvard School of Public Health in 1993, one of the major changes was making ﬁsh and seafood more prominent. The reason? In 2008, ongoing research studies concluded that consuming seafood and ﬁsh, particularly fatty ﬁsh high in Omega-3s, twice a week was particularly health promoting for brain and heart health. Since then there’s been a continual drumbeat of research validating that conclusion.
Seafood is rich in nutrients that help support optimal health at all life stages, from pregnancy and early childhood to growing teens and aging adults. The nutrients in seafood—such as Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins—help support heart health, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, lower chronic systemic inﬂammation, protect the eyes, support the immune system and boost brain health, including early brain development. With all of these beneﬁts and more, it’s no surprise that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid encourage eating seafood at least two times each week.
While we’ve written many times about the health beneﬁts of eating seafood, and about the focus on pregnancy and children in the Dietary Guidelines released last year, it’s worth repeating. The positive recommendations in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines regarding the consumption of ﬁsh and seafood include:
- Consumption during pregnancy may be related to reduced risk of hypertensive disorders and preterm birth and better cognitive development and language and communication development in children.
- Women who are lactating should continue to consume seafood at the same amounts recommended during pregnancy.
- Seafood provides good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as seafood, beginning at ages 6 to 12 months, and prioritize seafood for toddlers ages 12 to 24 months.
While U.S. seafood consumption in 2020 rose to the highest levels since 2007 (16.1 pounds per capita), Americans fall short of recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines. As reported by Seafood Source, “these latest metrics indicate that most U.S. consumers have yet to reach the recommended level of seafood consumption laid out in the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggest that adults eat two four-ounce servings of seafood each week. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), if Americans followed these guidelines, they would be eating around 26 pounds of seafood per individual each year.”
While seafood consumption is happily inching up, the main reasons cited, over the years, why people don’t eat more seafood are lack of knowledge about how to cook ﬁsh and seafood, fear of seafood and price. For those price conscious consumers, there are lots of aﬀordable canned, pouched or frozen seafood options. For people looking for ideas about how to prepare ﬁsh and seafood, look no further than Oldways recipe search, the 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Book, Fresh Friday recipes, and our friends at the National Fisheries Institute (see below). In terms of fear, we can only suggest you give it a try and ﬁnd out all that you’re missing!
Get into the spirit of National Seafood Month and National Pescatarian Month by cooking up this Mediterranean protein stand-out. Find a new favorite Dish on Fish recipe, like Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Cauliﬂower Mash and Spinach. Or, keep it classic with something like Crunchy Air Fryer Fish Sticks or Spicy Sheet-Pan Salmon. For more easy and delicious seafood recipes, check out the recently updated Dish on Fish Everyday Seafood Recipes cookbook featuring more than 60 quick and easy dishes.
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Join the Make Every Day Mediterranean Club Facebook group for additional information and support.