Low in Calories, High in Nutrition
by David A. Stuiber
Seafoods have always been held in high esteem as an entree
on restaurant menus, but in recent years an increasing number of people have begun to
include more fish and seafood as a regular part of their home menus -- and with good
Besides being economical and easy to prepare, fish and
seafoods are easy to digest, low in sodium and high in protein, yet contain far fewer
calories and less fat than comparable servings of red meats. This has prompted many
health- and weight-conscious Americans to adopt fish and seafoods as true "lean
Fish and seafood products are also excellent sources of
B-complex vitamins and essential trace minerals, including potassium, iron, phosphorus,
copper, iodine, manganese, cobalt and selenium. Fatty species of fish--salmon, whitefish
and mackerel, for example--are also rich in vitamins A and D. Some species of shellfish
are good sources of zinc and bone-building calcium.
Recent studies indicate that a meal or two of fish each
week may also help reduce blood cholesterol levels, a leading cause of atherosclerosis,
commonly called hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a major factor in the
development of coronary heart disease, America's No. 1 fatal disease.
Low in Calories
Fish offers high-quality protein with fewer calories than
a similar-sized portion of meat. (For calorie, fat, and protein contens of fish commonly
available in the Midwest, see the table.) For example, both
haddock and ground beef are about 18% protein. But the haddock will have only about 22
calories per ounce, while regular ground beef has about 80 calories per ounce.
The total number of calories in a seafood meal depends on
your choice of seafood and your method of preparing it. A 3.5-ounce serving of perch, for
example, has far fewer calories than an equivalent serving of chinook salmon or sturgeon
caviar. And frying, due to the uptake of frying oil, will add more calories to a serving
of fish than will broiling, poaching or steaming it. A serving of deep-fried perch, for
example, will have far more calories than a similar serving of poached perch.
Condiments like butter and tartar sauce also add a lot of
calories to a serving of fish. Dieters can easily avoid the hundreds of calories in tartar
sauce and butter by using just a few fresh herbs--such as sweet basil, curry powder or
paprika--or a sqeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the delicate flavors of fish or
Doctors and nutritionists nationwide are beginning to
recommend more fish and seafoods in the diet, based on scientific research on the
beneficial roles of fish and fish oils in human nutrition and general health.
While many aspects of fish and nutrition are still under
investigation, much of the current research effort is focused on the various kinds of
lipids in fish, particularly the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are unique to fish
and fish oils. Trout and salmon in particular are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Recent research indicates a diet containing fish or fish
oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids has beneficial effects on such health problems as
hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), high levels of cholesterol (blood lipids) and
high blood pressure (hypertension), and perhaps even arthritis.
Atherosclerosis, hypertension and obesity are the three
major diet-relatedfactors involved in an increased risk of developing coronary heart
disease, the cause of nearly half of all deaths in the United States today. On average,
one in five Americans has a problem with atherosclerosis or high blood lipids. A diet
generally high in fat content seems to increase blood cholesterol, and a diet high in
saturated fats increases blood cholesterol in some people. Seafoods are generally low in
cholesterol and fats, and 60 to 80% of the fat in seafoods consists of polyunsaturated
fatty acids, like those in vegetable oils.
More than 60 million Americans suffer from hypertension,
and restriction of the amount of sodium in the diet is often part of the treatment for it.
Another important aspect of the dietary management of hypertensive patients is maintaining
their potassium levels when certain diuretics are part of the treatment. Freshwater and
saltwater species of fish alike are both low in sodium and good sources of potassium.
However, the use of brine in processing pickled, smoked and some frozen fish and seafood
products can increase the sodium content more than threefold: Read the package label
Lemon and lime juice are good substitutes for salt in
seafood dishes, and tarragon, basil, paprika, garlic, mushrooms and onions all enhance the
flavor of seafood dishes without raising the sodium or caloric content significantly.
Besides tasting good and being good for you, fish and
seafoods have two other special attractions as home menu items: They are quick and easy to
Generally speaking, any method used to prepare meat dishes
can also be used with seafoods, including baking, broiling, grilling and frying. Unlike
many meats, however, fish and other seafoods do not require a lot of cooking to make them
tender. In fact, your main concern should be to avoid cooking them too long: Fish steaks
and small whole fish can be broiled, steamed, poached or fried in only a few minutes.
And while fish and seafoods generally cost more per pound
than red meats, there is little or no bone and fat to trim away and less shrinkage during
cooking, so less is wasted.
Related Sea Grant Publications
- For free copies of these publications, send email to Linda
Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your complete mailing address.
"Home Freezing of Fish by David Stuiber.
University of Wisconsin Sea GrantCollege Program Publication No. WIS-SG-84-150
"Home Smoking of Fish by David Stuiber, Mary
Mennes and C.E. Johnson. University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program Publication No.
"Home Pickling of Fish by David Stuiber and
Mary Mennes. University ofWisconsin Sea Grant College Program Publication No.
"Home Canning of Fish by David Stuiber and Mary
Mennes. University of WisconsinSea Grant College Program Publication No. WIS-SG-84-146
"Fish Recipe Cards (set of 7) by the University
of Wisconsin Sea Grant InstituteCommunications Office staff.
"Fish and Seafoods: Dividend Foods by Charlotte
Dunn. University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Publication No. WIS-SG-74-118
"Fish Filleting by Charlotte Dunn. University
of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program Publication No. WIS-SG-74-117