There is truth in the saying, “There are many fish in the sea.” However, when it comes to consuming seafood, most people look to fish, such as salmon or tuna, and don’t realize the numerous options and benefits offered by other seafood choices, such as mollusks—mussels, clams, and squid—or crustaceans, including crab, shrimp and lobster. Strong and consistent evidence for the health benefits of eating seafood—including non-fish options—has resulted in the USDA Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association recommending that we eat seafood at least twice a week.
Nutritional bounty from the sea. Crustaceans and mollusks, also referred to as “shellfish,” do not have a backbone or internal skeleton. Crustaceans have a segmented body covered by an exoskeleton that consists of a hard upper shell and soft under shell. Mollusks have a soft, unsegmented body, usually enclosed in a hard shell—exceptions include octopus and squid.
Steamed Mussels Provencal
2 tsp olive oil
½ c chopped yellow onion
½ c chopped fennel bulb
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
¼ c dry white wine
½ c low-sodium chicken broth
2 lbs mussels, rinsed and debearded
- In large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and fennel and cook until softened.
- Add garlic, thyme and parsley and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer until liquid thickens; about 10-15 minutes.
- Add wine and bring to a boil. Add mussels and cover until mussels open, about 3-4 minutes. Remove mussels that do not open.
- Serve mussels in individual bowls with sauce.
Makes 4 servings
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 270 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 680 milligrams sodium, 18 g carbohy-drate, 2 g fiber, 29 g protein.
Recipe courtesy Kaley Todd, MS, RDN
Seafood has an abundance of nutrients and health benefits. Crustaceans and mollusks are naturally low in saturated fat and provide high quality protein. The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—linked with lowering inflammation and protecting against heart disease, cancers, and neurodegenerative dis-eases—are found in all seafood to some degree, with substantial amounts found in certain types of oysters and mus-sels. Clams, mussels, and oysters also are rich in iron, zinc, and selenium. In the past, it was thought that shellfish (particu-larly shrimp) were high in cholesterol, but new analytical techniques have identified that these sterols have no negative im-pact on the heart.
Eco Impact. Although most seafood contains some amount of mercury, shellfish typically have lower amounts compared to some fish counterparts, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. And many shellfish are top sustainable options, including Alaska and Canadian shrimp, farmed scallops and clams, mussels, and oysters. However, some are not quite so sustainable and should be limited, including American lobster and shrimp from Louisiana or Mexico.
Unfortunately, as a result of contaminated waters, shellfish can be sources of certain foodborne illnesses, such as the Nor-walk virus, salmonella, E. coli, and hepatitis A. To lower risk of exposure, avoid consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, buy from a reputable source, refrigerate properly, and comply with local seafood safety advisories.
In the kitchen. As with any food, remember the nutritional profile is impacted by the preparation method. Seafood drenched in salt, butter, and cream will add loads of calories, salt, and artery-clogging saturated fat. Baking, grilling, broiling and steaming are better cooking methods. Season with herbs and spices, and use broths, juice, wine, and salsas instead for sauces and garnishes.
—Kaley Todd, MS, RDN
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