Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month®. Foodservice operators can tap into heightened public interest in healthful eating with seafood features on the menu.
Consumer demand for seafood
One in four consumers is eating more seafood since the pandemic, according to the International Food Information Council. In addition, 36% of Americans are replacing meat with seafood in a quest to improve their health, says Technomic.
At the same time, many consumers say they want to become more knowledgeable about the nutritional benefits of seafood. Seafood is a major source of healthy omega-3 fats and is also rich in nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium.
Replacing red meat on the menu
The Harvard Nutrition Source says that replacing red meats and processed meats with fish and seafood can “lower the risk of diseases and premature death.” They attribute this difference to seafood being lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3s. Seafood is also an excellent source of high-quality protein, they point out.
Harvard classifies omega-3 fatty acids as “essential fats,” meaning they are essential for health, and the body must get them from food. While there are plant sources of omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), those from seafood (EPA and DHA) are much better utilized by the body and have earned the label, “marine omega-3s”.
Omega-3s for health benefits
Omega-3 fatty acids “have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke,” says Harvard. Omega-3 fatty acids may help control inflammatory illnesses such as lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, too, says Harvard.
Among athletes, research shows that the omega-3s EPA and DHA can improve lung function during and after exercise and reduce post-workout muscle soreness. Fish consumption could help reduce frequency, severity, and duration of migraines. Eating seafood (not in fried form) can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as well (Seafood Nutrition Partnership).
Fish consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Eating fish 2-3 times per week has been linked to higher scores on measures of cognitive health for people in the 60-80 age range (Seafood Nutrition Partnership).
Seafood a cornerstone of Mediterranean Diet
The nutritional benefits of seafood play a role in the Mediterranean Diet, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report, with input from a panel of health experts, as “#1 in Best Diets Overall”. The eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, as well as seafood at least several times per week. It minimizes sweets and red meat. The eating plan has been linked to many health benefits.
Seafood menu features
Seafood is a healthful addition to your menu for any daypart. Leveraging seafood in your health-focused menu can be as simple as adding wild-caught salmon to an omelet or replacing processed meats with sustainable tuna on a salad. Limited time offerings (LTOs) can promote seafood health benefits in conjunction with National Nutrition Month®. Visit the Chicken of the Sea health & wellness foodservice recipe collection for ideas.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits they can follow all year long. For references and more detail about seafood nutrition, visit the free continuing education course on tunaversity.com, Advances in Seafood Nutrition.