We all know the importance of consuming our “five-a-day.” We know to swap white bread for whole-grain, to drink plenty of water and to exercise regularly. But when it comes to our knowledge about the health benefits of fish, many Americans are floundering.
That’s why Food Network chef Melissa d’Arabian has teamed up with renowned cardiologist Dr. William Castelli, director of the landmark Framingham Heart Study, to launch “Get Real About Seafood,” an educational campaign designed to raise awareness about how healthy—and delicious—fish and shellfish can be.
Although fish packs a powerful punch of heart- and brain-healthy nutrients—including essential omega-3 fatty acids—Americans still aren’t eating enough of it.
“The average American eats less than 1 serving per week,” says d’Arabian, host of the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian. “Most Americans could stand to double or even triple the amount of seafood that they’re eating each week.”
RELATED: Non-Fishy Fish Recipes
That would make a huge impact on cardiovascular health, Castelli says. “By increasing the amount of seafood in your diet to just 2 to 3 servings per week, you can cut your heart attack risk by 30 percent and improve cognitive functioning,” he says.
The good news? “It’s completely doable,” Melissa says.
There are various reasons why people refrain from eating fish—they might not fully understand the health benefits, for example, or they may simply dislike the taste. But for many people, the problem begins in the kitchen.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions about seafood, one of them being that seafood is difficult to prepare. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Melissa. “That’s why we’re trying to arm people with the tips and recipes so that they can become more confident about cooking seafood.”
If you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to cooking seafood, check out d’Arabian’s strategies for incorporating more seafood into everyday meals.
Stick with what you know. “Take a familiar recipe and try swapping out the protein for seafood,” d’Arabian suggests. “For instance, if your family loves taco night, try making some fish tacos instead of beef.”
Think canned. Many people think fresh fish is the most nutritious option, but canned fish offers the same health benefits for a fraction of the price. “Canned tuna and salmon are often overlooked,” d’Arabian says. “They’re both great options that are affordable, convenient and shelf-stable, and you can cook them up in no time!” She recommends using canned tuna to make grilled tuna burgers, or canned salmon for salmon cakes.
Be sneaky. To introduce seafood gradually into your diet, start by sneaking it into favorite dishes. “With my kids, I take a meal they already know and love and try to incorporate the fish into that. They love quesadillas, so I’ll often sprinkle a little tuna into there. They barely even notice it!” Try hiding small bits of seafood in casserole dishes, enchiladas, or stews.
Go big on flavor. If the “fishy” taste turns you off, load up on bold, robust flavors and spices—think curry, garlic and ginger. “Pick a favorite flavor profile. If you love Asian flavors, open up a can of tuna, toss it with a little bit of sesame oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger and cilantro, and already you are on your way to having a flavorful, nutritious Asian salad.”
Fire up the grill. “Grilling keeps seafood moist and gives it that great charred, smoky taste,” d’Arabian says. Plus, taking the cooking outside helps avoid getting the fishy smell in your house.
Make it a family affair. Get the whole family excited about seafood by cooking it together. “I have four young girls, and my goal is to help them develop a taste for seafood at a young age,” d’Arabian says. “If you can get your kids involved in the cooking process, they will be more likely to try it. But more importantly, they are developing a positive relationship with healthy foods.”
To learn more about the Get Real About Seafood Campaign and view more tips and recipes, please visit www.getrealaboutseafood.com.