Seafood (NOT the version where your 10-year-old shoves their open mouth in your face whilst chewing their spaghetti Bolognese) is a highly nutritious group of whole foods that we should be eating more of.
Seafood is so nutritious. It’s well-known for it’s composition of omega 3 fats, but the entire purpose of this article is to inspire you to eat it for other reasons too! There’s so much more for your health than just healthy fats. It has nutrients galore! Not only is seafood rich in micronutrients, they’re highly bioavailable as well. This means your body can absorb them easily.
What is seafood?
It’s an animal or plant from a marine environment (ocean, lake, river). Not all things that swim or grow in the ocean are edible by humans, but I’m so glad we’ve discovered the ones that are! Here are the main types of seafood that you can regularly include in your diet (from a dietary perspective rather than a biological one):
White fish: barramundi, kingfish, flake (shark), basa, ling, pearch
Fatty fish: trout, tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel
Shellfish (crustaceans and molluscs): crab, lobster, prawns, crayfish, oysters, scallops, muscles, squid, octopus
Roe (fish eggs): caviar and others
Echinoderms: sea cucumber
Medusozoa: jelly fish – apparently some species are edible
The groups of food above represent a highly diverse range of species, with nutrition varying widely. Of the seafood consumed most often in Australia (what you’d find at your local fish market – a range of different fish, crab, muscles, squid, prawns, scallops, lobster, and octopus) here’s the kind of nutrients your body can enjoy!
Omega 3 fats
These are well-known for promoting good health in a number of different ways. From reducing a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, to good cognitive development and joint health, just to name a few.
Marine sourced omega 3 fats, the ones that come from seafood, are said to have more health benefits than those derived from plants. Diets rich in seafood like those of the eskimos and the Japanese, are very protective against heart disease.
Seafood is an excellent source of protein. Protein is necessary for feeling more full at meal times and providing the building blocks for nearly all of the body’s major structures. Most seafood is also quite lean, being low in total fat and saturated fat. This means you can happily eat a larger portion, and feel satisfied after eating, while still keeping your energy intake to an appropriate level.
Iodine is a super important nutrient. Your thyroid gland, a major player in regulating your metabolism, needs iodine to function properly. Deficiency in this nutrient can have profound short and long term effects. Iodine is lacking in the Australian diet, so much so that it was mandatory for all dietary salts to be fortified with iodine. It’s also recommended that all pregnant women take a supplement. Seafood is the richest source of iodine, compared to other foods, especially shellfish. So grab yourself a plate of prawns and get munching! Yum!
An important nutrient for thyroid and immune function, selenium is found in nearly all fish and is highly bioavailable. This makes it a superior source compared to other foods.
And so much more!
Seafood also offers you calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc and iron.
As you can see, you could pop an omega 3 pill, or you could eat the whole food and reap the benefits of all the nutrients seafood has to offer.
How to include seafood in your diet
Seafood is one of those food groups that people either love or hate. Maybe you had a bad experience as a kid, or you can’t stand the smell. Maybe you had an awful experience with mornay (my husband) or maybe you just don’t like the texture when handling it raw. Maybe you like seafood, but you’re just not sure how to cook it or include it in your diet regularly. Does the thought of walking into a fish monger intimidate you or once you’re in there, are you unsure of what to order? Whatever the reasons are, seafood can be challenging to include in your diet.
Here are some ideas to get you started
Fish (salmon, trout, snapper, flake, barramundi) is awesome baked in the oven with some olive oil, salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’s all it needs. Wrap it in a foil parcel and cook for 15-2o minutes in an oven set to around 180 degrees. Serve with a salad or steamed vegetables – I love adding roast potatoes!
Give these fish recipes a go:
- Fish with Tomato and Feta Salsa
- Fish and Greens with Coconut and Lime Sauce
- Toasted Smoked Salmon Wrap
Prawns are fantastic eaten cold (cooked of course – you buy them like that). In fact, pair them with iceberg lettuce, avocado and seafood sauce. That flavour combination is just divine! You can stir fry prawns, add them as the main meat portion in pastas, throw them into salads or onto the BBQ. Flavour them with citrus (lemon, lime), herbs, spices and aromatics – garlic, chilli and onion.
Give these prawn recipes a go:
Most people eat this seafood as crumbed or battered calamari, which is fine occasionally, but I’d urge you to give it a try lightly sautéed in olive oil with a drizzle of lemon and served with a delightful green salad and a sprinkle of feta and pine nuts!
It doesn’t take long to cook. Heat a non-stick frying pan or grill over medium-high heat. Add ½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil. Add the squid rings to the pan and toss regularly for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt. Remove from the heat and drizzle with lemon juice. Voila!
Have a look at our favourite flavour combinations, we have picked our Top 8!
Other quick tips for eating seafood
* Keep tins of tuna in the pantry or at your desk at work. Mix with a tin of corn kernels, ½ tbsp. mayonnaise and you’ve got a fab, nutritious and filling afternoon tea.
* Grab some cooked prawns from the supermarket or fish monger on your way home from work. Add a bag of green leafy salad, an avocado and a wholegrain wrap and you’ve got an easy dinner with a twist!
* I love buying individually portioned packs of salmon. They are so easy to microwave or cook in the oven when I’m making a meal for just me – lunch or dinner!
* Whenever I eat out, I often order seafood. Things I wouldn’t make at home. Oysters especially! They are super fun to eat. I wasn’t a huge fan the first time I tried them, but by the third or fourth time, I was hooked!
* Marinara mix is a combination of pieces of fish, prawns, muscles, squid and scallops. I buy it from the Fyshwick Fresh Food markets nearly every Sunday and sauté it in lots garlic, chilli, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Then toss them through some high fibre pasta and add a sprinkle or parmesan or feta cheese. It’s my absolute favourite meal.
If you’d like further help with your nutrition please click below:
Super Seafood – published by Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre.
Seafood, nutrition and human health. A synopsis of the nutritional benefits of consuming seafood, 2011 – published by Centre of Excellence Science Seafood & Health (CESSH), Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology.