Elizabeth S. Reames | 10/7/2005 1:12:37 AM
In observance of October as National Seafood month, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames says that consuming approximately two servings of fish per week (about 8 ounces total) may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The Food Guide Pyramid recommends choosing fish more often for lunch or dinner, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), help protect against heart disease.
Reames explains that these acids help to relax the arteries and improve blood circulation to the heart. They inhibit blood clotting and improve heartbeat.
Omega-3s lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure, which makes heart attacks less likely. They keep the arteries open by discouraging the build up of "plaque" in blood vessels. They act as an anti-inflammatory agent and so may have other health benefits for a wide range of health problems.
Reames notes that fish and seafood are nutrient-dense and packed with protein. Seafood is generally low in calories and fat, less than 5 percent fat. The fat that is found in seafood is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Most seafood is also low in sodium and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including iodine, which is essential for the thyroid gland to function; iron, for red blood cell formation; and zinc, for wound healing. Seafood is rich in B vitamins needed for many metabolic processes, such as the release of energy in the body. Oysters, mussels and scallops are especially rich in both iron and zinc. Seafood is an important source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes, skin and hair, and vitamin D, for strong bones and teeth.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency advise women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant women or nursing mothers and small children to avoid some types of fish and shellfish and eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
For additional information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact the LSU Ag Center Extension agent in your parish. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.