In the News: U.S. Not Feeling as Fishy


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Though experts tell us we should be eating more fish and seafood, we're actually eating less, according to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Americans are eating about 16.3 pounds of fish and shellfish per capita each year, or about 5 ounces a week, down one percent from 2006.
The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish and seafood a week as part of a heart-healthy diet.

We ate 60 pounds of chicken per capita back in 2005, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, a number that's surely rising. And the 4.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish that Americans consumed last year is dwarfed by how much beef we put away in 2006: 28.1 billion pounds.

Fish has health benefits that are hard to ignore, according to experts. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish has been shown to reduce abnormal heart rhythms, decrease "bad" cholesterol levels, prevent plaque from building up in arteries and slightly lower blood pressure. In addition, fish is low in saturated fats, relatively low in calories, and quick cooking.

Want to guess who eats more fish and shellfish than Americans (ranked third in overall consumption)? Japan. (China is the No. 1 consumer.) The Japanese also boast the world's longest average lifespan.

So why aren't you eating more fish?

It's expensive.
Fish can be expensive, but there are plenty of affordable seafood options. Canned tuna, salmon or crab are cheaper than their fresh counterparts and easier to prepare. Tinned sardines, anchovies, mackerel (my personal favorite!) and herring are rich in Omega-3's, and a little of these potent fish go a long way. Watch for sales and stock up on frozen seafood. This week, a local grocery store had 12-ounce bags of cod and mahi-mahi for $4.99 in the freezer section, plus tuna and salmon fillets for $6.99 a pound. Remember that a serving of fish (or meat) is just 2-3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. To feed a family of four, you only need 8-12 ounces.

I don’t like the taste of fish.
Start out with mild white-fleshed fish, such as cod, halibut, pollock, or the wildly popular tilapia. Though lower in Omega-3's than darker, oily fish, white fish is also incredibly low in calories and full of vitamins and minerals. You'll soon discover that white-fleshed fish is the real "chicken of the sea."

It's versatile, neutral in flavor and easy to cook.

Try fish the next time you go out to dinner. Ask your server for recommendations. After a sampling fish away from home a few times, you might feel brave enough to cook it at home.

The first time I tried salmon was at my grandmother's house. She baked some frozen salmon steaks alongside buttered rice and steamed broccoli. Slimy, bland, pale and full of pin bones, the fish was awful. I barely got through the meal. The next time I had salmon was at a Japanese restaurant. I was nervous that I wouldn't like it, but my salmon teriyaki was flavorful, and the fish I had long loathed was actually full of flavor when cooked correctly.

Thank goodness I gave salmon a second chance, because the rich cold water fish is now one of my favorites.

I don't know how to cook it.
If you can broil a chicken breast or steam vegetables, you can cook fish. A few tips:
  • Fish changes color, from translucent to opaque, when it cooks. Shrimp changes from grayish-blue to pink when cooked.
  • Sprinkle fish fillets with your favorite herbs (try rosemary, oregano,dill or tarragon), then place them on top of your vegetables in the steamer. You'll seal in moisture. (Still nervous about cooking fish? Pick up a seafood steamer kit at the grocery store.)
  • Try dredging fish in a bit of cornmeal, then sautéing it in some olive oil.
  • Toss shrimp in with some vegetables for a quick stir-fry. They cook in mere minutes. (As soon as they're pink and the tail curls towards the head, they're done.)
  • When you're broiling thicker cuts of fish, you can see it change color from the top down. If the fish is thinner, you'll see the edges start to crisp. If you're sautéing fish, it will change color from the bottom up.

For plenty of quick, delicious fish recipes, click here.

I'm worried about the safety of eating fish.
It's true. Some fish are safer to eat than others, because of contamination from mercury, PCBs or other heavy metals. If you're worried for any reason about which fish to eat, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Guide.

My favorite fish dish is broiled salmon with a bit of lemon, salt and pepper. Like my Gramma, I serve it with steamed broccoli (dolled up with a bit of lemon juice). For special occasions, I serve nut-crusted fish fillets.

How often do you eat fish? How do you cook it?

Photo: taken at a Tokyo healthy sushi bar, 2006

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  • 31
    Our favorite way to have about any kind of fish is to broil it with a little butter or margarine and Old Bay seasoning. Even the kids like it when I cook it like this. For a quick dinner I also use canned salmon and mix it with an egg (one per can), diced onion and crushed Triscuits, instant salmon cakes. And by using triscuis they are healthier. - 8/25/2008   5:10:13 PM
  • 30
    yum... sushi. that is the one thing that will be really tough for me to give up if/when i get pregnant. really, when it comes to seafood the only thing i'm not a fan of is canned stuff - tuna, etc. - 8/25/2008   4:50:20 PM
  • 29
    I'm not a lover of fresh fish, but I could eat canned tuna every day! - 8/25/2008   4:27:43 PM
  • 28
    I do like fish, but I don't buy it often because of the expense. And, after all the hullabaloo about mercury and other contaminants in fish, I often pass it by in the supermarket because I'm afraid it could be contaminated. - 8/25/2008   4:20:29 PM
  • 27
    We eat canned tuna and salmon 2+ times per week. Eat seafood selections when we eat out more than other foods. - 8/25/2008   3:56:49 PM
  • 26
    Flaxseeds are a healthy way to get in your omega-3s. They aren't that expensive either. I can get a whole box for under $2. You grind them up and sprinkle them on salads, add them to smoothies or baked goods. - 8/25/2008   3:48:35 PM
  • 25
    I love seafood, but right now it is too expensive for me. In a few months when the price goes down again I will eat it more times every week.

    ATRYEU maybe you shouldn't eat smoked, try fresh and see if you can eat that.

    - 8/25/2008   3:38:23 PM
  • 24
    I can eat salmon everyday baked or grilled with a sprinkle of splenda & dill. Yummy - 8/25/2008   3:04:57 PM
  • 23
    My wife and I try to get in fish at least twice a week. We both love it and work it into our meal planner each week - 8/25/2008   2:59:13 PM
    I love fish but the rest of my family are not big fans...makes it hard for me to eat it very often. Salmon and Tuna Steaks are my favorite, although I do enjoy Orange Roughy and Mahi Mahi. - 8/25/2008   2:49:19 PM
  • 21
    I love fish and other seafood I may be one of the few that eats to much!!! - 8/25/2008   2:44:53 PM
  • 20
    My husband and I love fish. The "farm raised" fish do not offer the nutritional benefits of the other so we try to avoid it. - 8/25/2008   2:07:31 PM
  • 5FOR35
    At our house we try to eat fish at least twice a week as part of our meal plan. Not only is it healthy, but if you check the grocery ads you can usually get good prices! We've been experimenting with different, light preparations and they've all been amazing. It's good to substitute fish for your meal at least once or twice a week instead of beef to give variety and have a healthier protein - 8/25/2008   1:37:57 PM
  • 18
    I've been off of red meat for a long time. Fish and Chicken are the way to go and once in awhile I do porkchops or porkloin, but not too often with cured ham. Pure meat is the best. - 8/25/2008   1:25:34 PM
  • 17
    I absolutely love seafood! My mom is allergic to seafood, so I didn't eat much of it as a kid. Now I order it almost everytime we go to a nice restaurant. What about shrimp? I buy frozen bags of shrimp from Walmart- so affordable, and so easy to thaw and prepare, toss with veggies! mmm! I admit I don't eat seafood every week, but when I do I eat it about 4 times that week, what does that mean? - 8/25/2008   1:24:06 PM
  • 16
    One of my favorite dishes to make is tilapia parmesan (recipe on my Sparkpage and on!) - it literally takes just a few minutes to cook, is quite healthy, and tastes so rich and decadent! I love making salmon cakes too.

    Other than that, I like to just steam, bake or broil the fish with some seasonings (mango-chipolte rub is awesome!). It doesn't get much simpler than fish! - 8/25/2008   1:22:38 PM
  • 15
    You don't have to worry about mercury and such so much if it's small fish since the amounts within them are miniscule. It's the predator fish you have to worry most about, like sword fish.

    We eat fish as often as we can over here because we know of the health benefits and it's tasty.

    However, over fishing is a problem which is why tilapia has gotten popular, and also why fish farms are on the rise, but in order for a fish farm to be profitable you have to have lots of fish in a small amount of space. It's all about the trade offs. Do you eat farmed fish because it's better for ocean environment or do you steer clear of them because they're jammed packed? - 8/25/2008   1:20:55 PM
  • 14
    While being concerned about overfishing and what that does to the oceans, I still LOVE fish. My favorite is salmon. I like it grilled either outdoors or on the George Foreman... strew it with some simple seasonings and let George do the work... you can then eat it as is or shred it over a salad... it's so easy. - 8/25/2008   1:18:32 PM
  • 13
    We grill our fish....Turn on hte grill, marinate in lemon-pepper seasoning or teryiaki and use a fish cooker to grill it. Our kids LOVE it and its so quick and easy! - 8/25/2008   1:15:08 PM
  • 12
    There is a world problem with JELLYFISH because of the over-fishing of tuna, who normally eat them in the BALANCE OF NATURE, so I think the world's ocean problem is very real. I will stay with eating "farm raised catfish." - 8/25/2008   12:22:31 PM
    I like some fish, but I read an article in National Geographic about the state of our oceans and how much fish is actually being consumed, and the cruel practices of obtaining it. It was HORRIFYING! I simply cannot bring myself to eating fish anymore. I feel guilty. The fishing practices around the world are so sad and the Japanese are the worst! They've been known to catch endangered reef fish, plus they de-fin sharks and throw them (alive) back in the water. And if you've seen the "bycatch" of a dredge net, you'll surely lose your appetite. It's really a depressing situation when you actually take the time to look at it. There are just too many people in the world and not enough ocean to go around.

    Check out the article online:
    link> http://ngm.nationalge
    es-crisis/montaigne-text.html /link
    > - 8/25/2008   12:02:30 PM
  • 10
    I like salmon cooked on a cedar plank on the grill. Great for summer and really easy! Buy a 3-4 oz fillet of salmon (any kind you like) with the skin on. You can also get cedar planks for cooking at most grocery stores, Crate and Barrel, World Market or specialty markets. Soak the planks in water for 2 - 3 hours. Put the plank on the grill over medium to medium high heat for 5 minutes. Turn it over and place salmon skin side down onto the plank. I usually cook mine medium for 10-15 minutes (1-2 pieces of fish). You can add lemon after it is cooked or I like to cook mine with a glaze as soon as I put in on the grill of equal parts extra virgin olive oil, molasses, brown sugar, and mustard (dijon is great!) with a little salt and pepper. It is great and I don't care for the taste of fish, but I love this now! - 8/25/2008   11:50:17 AM
  • 9
    I don't eat fish because i'm a vegetarian, and fishing does a lot of harm to the environment as well. just my 2 cents! - 8/25/2008   11:43:58 AM
    Does Canned tuna count as eating fish? Other than that, I don't touch the stuff. - 8/25/2008   11:39:40 AM
    I would like to know more about the light breading and how you do it!!! sounds wonderful... - 8/25/2008   11:21:02 AM
    Mine either, ElitaB75! I'm about to grow GILS from all of the fish I eat! I love it!

    I will admit that I've been concerned about the safety, recently. I try to change up the types of fish that I eat, to combat some of the potential risks. - 8/25/2008   11:13:18 AM
    I love fish. If I am in a hurry, there is a light breading I found. You simply dredge the fish, and pop it into the oven. It tastes great, and it is crispy, but not fried! - 8/25/2008   11:11:43 AM
  • LITERB93
    Guess they didn't survey my house. We eat fish everyday. We have salmon or tuna for lunch. And if we treat ourselves and go out to eat, we always order fish, because we love it. Guess my husband being from Baton Rouge has something to do with it. I think I'll make some salmon patties for dinner tonight. - 8/25/2008   10:52:23 AM
  • 3
    Salmon is also wonderful BBQed on a cedar plank. I made this last night, and while definitely a $ treat, it was an incredible taste treat. You can buy premade planks or even purchase a cedar shingle from a home improvement center that has been cut to size. I grilled 3 lbs (enough for leftovers today) and it took 25 minutes. :) In fact, I'd say this is probably my favorite preparation of salmon so far! - 8/25/2008   10:40:36 AM
  • DANICA68
    having grown up in a family of fishers i have always loved fish. but i don't cook it a lot. i am trying to add it to my weekly meals more. and i almost always order fish when i go out to eat. - 8/25/2008   10:31:50 AM
    I don't often eat fish/seafood now days because it hurts my stomach something awful, but when I was a kid, I used to love BBQ steelhead (and almost any smoked fish). We always caught out own, we never bothered with store bought. Now days, once a year we go to the coast and buy about 200lbs of fresh tuna and can it. I still try and eat some of the smoked tuna we can.. it hurts my stomach something awful still, but it sure tastes good! - 8/24/2008   3:48:01 PM

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