Guest Post By Nutritionist: Uriell Carlson, RDN. Founder, Inner Wild Nutrition
If someone tells you to eat seafood to get more healthy fats, my bet is that you will think of salmon first. This is because salmon is arguably the most popular type of seafood known for its omega 3 content. But, not all fish and not even all salmon is going to give you the same dose of omega 3’s.
Now, there are a lot of reasons to eat seafood. Nutritional guidelines say that we should eat at least 2 servings of seafood per week as a part of a healthy diet. Seafood is a complete source of protein that gives us a respite from the red-meat laden standard american diet and it’s a nutrient-dense food that we can feel good about eating! But, if you’re eating seafood for specific benefits, such as for the healthy omega 3 fats, it’s helpful to know what you’re getting. So let’s break down some common sources of seafood and their nutritional benefits.
To begin with, if you’re eating fish for the healthy fats, choose a fatty fish such as AK King Salmon or Black Cod as opposed to a less fatty AK Cod or even AK Pink Salmon. For example, a serving of King Salmon has 11g of fat with an impressive 1,476MG Omega 3s, whereas a standard Cod has 0g fat and 70mg Omega 3s. As a reference, any Omega 3 supplement with over 1,000mg Omega 3 is what I would consider a significant dose of Omega 3.
Back to Cod for a minute, this comparison is not to say don’t eat Cod, especially if you’ve never tried it before. Plus, there’s a big difference between AK Cod and Black Cod (Sablefish). Cod (also known as Alaskan Cod, P-Cod or True Cod), for example, has an amazing mild flavor that’s great for weary seafood eaters (including kids) and it still boasts a solid dose of protein. If you need to limit any and all fat intake for a specific reason, AK Cod (not Black Cod) is your go-to. It’s also known as an affordable alternative to Halibut. Black Cod, or Sablefish on the other hand, has a rich healthy-fattiness comparable to salmon. This also makes it more forgiving for new seafood cooks because it can tolerate a bit of over-cooking and still be delicious.
Nutritional Benefits of Seafood
Here’s some of the main nutritional benefits of seafood + a list of the best sources for each benefit:
Supports brain function (our brain is nearly 60% fat!), memory, development of growing brains, recovery from brain injuries, helps reduce depression, and contributes to eye + cardiovascular health
Best sources: AK King Salmon and AK Black Cod (Sablefish)
Seafood provides a complete source of protein for supporting muscle recovery and growth, cellular function and satiety
Best Sources: a 3oz serving of AK Scallops provides almost 20g of protein and less than 100 calories and all AK salmon provide 23-26g per 3.5oz serving
This one is easy to be deficient in, especially if you live in a cloudy, rainy and/or cold climate where you skin will not be exposed to sun for a large part of the year. Vitamin D contributes to mood, supports absorption of calcium, and enhances immunity and gut health.
Best Sources: AK Sockeye Salmon, AK Pink Salmon, Swordfish
Supports bone structure, nerve and muscle function
Best sources: AK Coho Salmon has 40mg (while King Salmon has half) and canned salmon or any high quality canned fish will provide a significant source of calcium.
Quality of Nutrition of Seafood
Now, let’s talk quality. Just as with meats, there’s A LOT of choices out there and they are not all equal. I base my seafood choices on quality, sustainability and the environment. With that, I avoid any farm-raised seafood, especially if it’s coming from outside the US (farm-raised practices are even more iffy internationally). Just as with grass fed beef, fish should be eating algae and other small fish in their ecosystem, not grain or ground up remnants of themselves.
Fresh or Frozen?
Lastly, fresh or frozen? Frozen is fine and sometimes even better because it’s frozen right after the catch, rather than being transported to be sold “fresh”. And I learned that you can even cook your seafood directly, from frozen. I’ll leave it at this: buy seafood from sources that you know and trust. If you need one, my go-to is Sierra Gale Seafoods. Her family runs a sustainable fishing operation out of Chignik, AK, and I know they truly care about their products and their environmental impact, so that they can continue to come back year after year.
For questions + more nutrition content find Uriell on IG @uri.carlson or go to innerwildnutrition.com to learn more about her work as a dietitian.