5 Tips for Eating Seafood Safely

If you read health and diet magazines, you’ve probably learned that eating seafood is good for you. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Kelli M. Ward, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, offers the following reasons why people—especially women of childbearing age—should limit, but not eliminate, their consumption of fish.

Risks and benefits

“Fish and shellfish are packed with great nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals,” explains Dr. Ward. “These help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.”

However, seafood also contains traces of mercury, a contaminant found in fish that can affect brain development and the nervous system. According to Dr. Ward, the risk from mercury by eating seafood is not a health concern for most people, but it can be an issue for pregnant women or women of childbearing age since large amounts of mercury may harm an unborn baby.

“Even if a woman stops eating fish after she becomes pregnant, the fetus is exposed to what’s already in the woman’s body, including mercury from seafood she ate before getting pregnant,” says Dr. Ward. “In fact, mercury from fish is typically stored in the body for up to one year.” That doesn’t mean, however, that women of childbearing age should never eat fish. “Fatty acid and omega-3 in fish can actually help increase a fetus’ brain development,” says Dr. Ward.

The good news, according to Dr. Ward, is that people naturally get rid of small amounts of mercury in their bodies over time. “All in all, as long as you follow the guidelines to eating seafood safely, the health benefits to eating seafood will far outweigh the risks from mercury.”

Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients. Source: American Osteopathic Association, osteopathic.org

Health claims about salmon pertain to the wild salmon caught by fishermen. Farmed salmon are fed antibiotics, they have an unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, and the salmon farms are a big source of environmental pollution in the surrounding areas.

Follow the guidelines

So, what are we supposed to think when it comes to incorporating fish into our diets? Dr. Ward provides five guidelines for eating seafood safely:

1. Eat up to 12 ounces (two six-ounce servings) per week of a variety of seafood that is lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, or salmon.

2. If you like albacore tuna, make that your only serving of fish for the week. Albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna.

3. Avoid eating large fish, such as swordfish or king mackerel, since bigger fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury. These fish can’t eliminate mercury as quickly as they take it in. All children and women of childbearing years should avoid eating these types of fish.

4. When you’re doing your own fishing, check local advisories about the safety of fish caught in local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. Information about bodies of water with high levels of contaminants is available from local public health departments and by contacting the United States Environmental Protection Agency at epa.gov. If no advice is available, eat only six ounces of fish caught from local waters and then don’t consume any other fish during the week.

5. When preparing a fish caught yourself, it is important to clean the fish by trimming away the skin and fatty tissue. This helps reduce any pollution in the fillets.


Shrimp Soft Tacos

Serves: 4

2 tablespoons San-J Tamari Sesame salad dressing

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 medium shrimp, peel and deveined

8 medium corn tortillas, warmed

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons peanuts

In a large bowl, whisk the San-J Tamari Sesame salad dressing, orange and lime juices, yogurt, poppy seeds, and salt and pepper. Add cabbage and tomatoes; mix well to combine. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook shrimp until opaque, approximately three minutes. Remove from heat and add cooked shrimp to the cabbage mixture; gently toss to combine. Divide mixture evenly among eight corn tortillas. Top with cilantro and peanuts. Serve warm. Source: Amie Valpone, san-j.com


Szechuan Prawns

Serves: 6

2 pounds fresh prawns, peeled, deveined, tails on

1/2 cup San-J Szechuan sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

8 cups steamed white rice

Place the prawns and San-J Szechuan sauce in a large glass or other non-reactive bowl. Mix well and cover tightly. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the marinated prawns, the marinade, and white wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for four minutes. Add the butter and blend with a spoon to melt. Remove the prawns from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve immediately, spooning the prawns and sauce over the steamed rice. Source: san-j.com


Hawaiian Style Tuna Poke

Serves: 4

8 ounces sushi-grade tuna, cubed

3 tablespoons Vidalia onion, finely diced

4 tablespoons green onion, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

3/4 cup pickled mung bean sprouts (recipe follows)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons mung bean sprouts pickling liquid

1 teaspoon chile water (2 Thai chilies pureed with 2 cups water)

4 tablespoons soy (add more or less to taste)

1/4 cup seaweed (hijiki, ogo, or wakame will work)

1/2 teaspoon ginger, finely diced

Negi (or leek), julienned and refreshed in iced water for garnish

Mix all ingredients together in a chilled bowl. Scoop into serving bowl and garnish with julienned negi.


Pickled Mung Bean Sprouts

Serves: 4

1/2 pound mung bean sprouts

2 cups rice vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 knob ginger

1 jalapeño

Place sprouts in a large food grade plastic container. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive pan. When mixture reaches a boil, pour over mung bean sprouts, cover, and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Will hold for two weeks in refrigerator. Source: Sashimi chef Tony Messina