USDA more than doubles dietary recommendation for seafood intake

David Hughes's picture

Researchers have known about the benefits of eating seafood for quite some time, mostly because of Omega-3 fatty acids, but new recommendations from the USDA recommend more than double the previous dietary guidelines for seafood consumption.

In recognition of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health and other aging issues, the United States Department of Agriculture has long recommended that Americans consume a minimum amount of seafood per week. Until recently, the recommendation was 3.5 ounces per week - a very modest amount - that many have either substituted or further supplemented by taking ever more popular omega-3 fish oil dietary supplements. Further research, according to a new report, more than doubles that recommendation to 8 ounces per week. This is roughly equivalent to two servings of modest filets, though in restaurant usage some pieces of fish will be at least 6 ounces, often exceeding 8 ounces on a single plate.

The benefit of seafood, particularly fish, has focused on omega-3 fatty acids, so many people assume that taking supplements can replace the role of fish in their diet - particularly those who do not enjoy eating it. This view, according to experts, is mistaken: the fatty acids are an important aspect of eating fish, but most species also contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients. Moreover, using varied sources of protein during the week (red meat, white meat, seafood, vegetable or legume sources) leads to a very balanced nutritional approach that focusing on one particular food group can't possible match no matter what supplements are used. Interesting to note, however, is that one of the more popular sources of fish in the United States - farm-raised tilapia - is one of the weakest sources of omega-3 acids.

Fish with 'darker' flesh, such as salmon, mackerel (pictured), herring, trout, and others are among the best sources of omega-3 in seafood. Many of these species are difficult to obtain in certain regions of the country, but salmon has become one of the more universally available types of fish. Though raw salmon that has been frozen or smoked has a very strong flavor - which often leads people to conclude all seafood is "fishy" tasting - fresh salmon is frequently available for around the same price as other fresh protein such as chicken or mid-range cuts of beef and can be prepared in a variety of ways without such a strong flavor. Grilling salmon 'steaks' with seasoning rubs is a particularly delicious way to cook, but those looking for new recipes to improve their dietary intake have a wealth of information available through the Internet. Those looking for white fish alternatives can look to orange roughy and its close relative barramundi, both of which have higher omega-3 counts than salmon according to seafood experts consulted by HULIQ.

Their is a downside to consuming certain types of fish, mostly because of mercury contamination, but this is primarily true of fish higher on the food chain like tuna or swordfish. Even with these species, the primary concern is for women currently pregnant or breast-feeding, and the subsequent impact on fetal and infant development. Other contamination issues may vary from region to region, but most experts say that the risks have been over-emphasized, and the benefits not promoted sufficiently. At least until these new dietary recommendations.

Image: Wikimedia

Add new comment