Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The 3 Rules Of Eating Seafood

Summertime in New England brings lobster rolls, fried clams, grilled shrimp and more seafood treats. One of my favorite, local seafood restaurants is the Clam Box in Ipswich, which has superb fried clams and also some decadent fried lobster. Whether you drive to Cape Cod or Maine, Gloucester or Rhode Island, you'll find plenty of excellent seafood options. Whether a local or tourist, there is seafood which will tempt your palate and please your belly.

However, at its most basic, what do consumers need to know about seafood?

Seafood issues can be complicated, requiring extensive research and study as well as lots of questions. It can be a daunting matter to the average consumer who lacks the time or inclination to dig so deep into these issues. They would prefer easy guidelines to follow, basic rules which will lead them through the morass of intricacies of seafood issues. I'm here to offer these consumers some basic advice, three rules to follow for seafood consumption. If you follow these rules, you'll help yourself, you'll help seafood species, and you'll help local communities.

In the near future, I will expand upon these issues in greater detail, and provide additional seafood advice for consumers. These three rules though are an excellent starting point, leading consumers toward the right direction.

1. Eat More Seafood
Most Americans need to eat more seafood, especially because of its significant health benefits. In 2013, seafood consumption decreased by 4%, down to about 14.4 pounds a year, making it seven consecutive years of decreasing consumption. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people should consume about 26 pounds of seafood each year, meaning most people should be eating about 11 pounds of seafood more than they currently consume. You should be consuming at least 4 ounces of seafood, twice a week.

Research has shown growing evidence of the significant health benefits of fish, for the heart, brain, and bones as well as against cancers and inflammatory diseases. But some of the strongest evidence is for its significant benefits to preventing heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) the leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, killing nearly 600,000 people each year. Since the 1970s, over 20,000 research studies have been conducted on the health benefits of seafood and they have concluded that eating seafood twice a week can reduce your chance of dying from heart disease by 36%. You probably won't find another single food that has been scientifically proven to reduce heart disease so significantly.

You owe it to yourself, and your family, to eat more seafood and benefit your health. In addition, seafood is delicious. Because of the great diversity of seafood, I'm sure there is seafood that nearly anyone will enjoy. It can be prepared in a myriad of methods, to fit any desire. Don't just enjoy it in the summer, but partake of seafood year round.

2. Eat Sustainable Seafood
Despite the vast size of the oceans, and all the freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, they do not contain an endless supply of seafood. And throughout history, man has overfished some of these waters, driving some species to the brink of extinction. That is unacceptable. We need to protect these endangered seafood species, as well as to protect the health and welfare of the oceans and other waters. Don't you want your children to be able to enjoy the same types of fish that you have enjoyed? Do you want to be responsible for killing off an entire species?

Fortunately, sustainable fisheries, which protect seafood species as well as the oceans, are becoming more and more prevalent. Consumers need to do their part by eating sustainable seafood, choosing not to eat any seafood which isn't sustainable. Yes, it is not always easy to determine what seafood is sustainable, though I will be offering advice in the future. What you should take away from this rule though, is that you should seek out sustainable seafood. When you buy seafood at your local market or restaurant, ask whether it is sustainable or not. Look for third party certifications, stating that the seafood is sustainable. We need to do our part to ensure the security of our seafood for future generations.

3. Eat More Domestic Seafood
A Maine lobster roll and a plate of New England fried clams are absolutely delicious, and they are even better because they are locally sourced. New England is not the only area in the U.S. with excellent local seafood. Think of the bounty of Gulf Shrimp, Alaskan Salmon, East Coast Oysters and so much more. With all of this excellent seafood available, then why does the U.S. currently import about 91% of our seafood? That is a disgrace. We need to support our own local fishermen and eat more of our own seafood, rather than primarily eat seafood from the rest of the world.

With imported seafood, there are greater issues with seafood misidentification and potential food safety issues. Wouldn't you rather buy some fish that came off the boat a few hours before, or a piece of frozen fish from China that has traveled thousands of miles after being processed in a different country? The FDA only checks about 2% of the seafood that gets imported into the U.S., so food safety is a major concern. Your best solution is to eat more domestic seafood, to support our own fishermen and communities.

(For more Seafood info, please check out my Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association homepage).

1 comment:

Susan Holaday said...

1644Agree that we need to eat locally sourced seafood and am concerned about the lack of controls over seafood entering the country from overseas that sometimes is not inspected carefully. Local and regional is the way we need to go!