The USDA message: More (Sea)food on your plate!
Gulf and Atlantic seafood industry members should be celebrating the USDA’s new Food Plate model for healthy eating because seafood plays a starring role.
The Food Plate, unveiled in early June, replaces the familiar (but not always heeded) Food Pyramid with the “Food Plate” as a representation of which foods – and how much of them – Americans should be eating. The Plate emphasizes lean proteins – and not just meats – with an emphasis on keeping seafood in the mix. “Go lean with protein” is the motto, and the USDA recommends a long list of seafood ranging from catfish and halibut to crab, shrimp and oysters.
The seafood emphasis makes sense, given how much nutrition seafood packs into each bite. Seafood offers high-quality protein and other essential nutrients and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Protein in seafood is more readily broken down and absorbed than the protein in red meats and poultry. Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are also crucial to brain development and growth.
Seafood also offers vitamins and minerals that are not easily found in other foods. Seafood is an excellent source of B complex vitamins, particularly niacin, B12 and B6. Calcium is also found in fish, especially fish with small bones such as sardines and smelts. Other minerals in seafood include zinc, found in oysters and crustaceans, iron found in oysters, bluefish, and shrimp, copper found in oysters, crabs, and lobster, potassium found in mussels, scallops, and clams, and iodine, phosphorus, and selenium is found in all seafood in general.
These summer months are an ideal time to make seafood part of lunch and dinner a few times a week, with weather that calls for light, fresh food that can be cooked – and enjoyed – outdoors. So as you plan the week’s meals, why not fire up the grill and add shrimp, grouper or any other favorite seafood to the fire? Your plate – and your body – will be better off for it.