How Seafood Can Benefit Diabetes Health (With Cooking Tips!)

If you’ve spent a lifetime avoiding seafood, it’s past time you gave it a try for three important reasons: It’s very good for your health, it’s easy to prepare, and it’s delicious, if you have some reliable cooking tips — and recipes.

Seafood and Diabetes Health

First, let’s look at the nutritional benefits of seafood, which includes both fish and shellfish. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fish and other seafood are the major sources of omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and selenium. They’re rich in protein and low in saturated fat. For people with diabetes, that means your heart is being protected from cardiac rhythm disturbances. The omega-3 fats also “lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function and, at higher doses, lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation.”

While both lean and fatty fish are considered great sources of protein, iodine, and various vitamins and minerals, the American Heart Association notes it’s the fatty fish — salmon, black cod, bluefin tuna, whitefish, anchovies, herring, mackerel, and cobia — that have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that adults ages 19 to 58 should eat 8 to 10 ounces of seafood weekly to get these benefits. And, yes, that includes canned fish. Be aware, though, that according to Harvard’s School of Public Health shellfish, including shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, and crayfish, delivers smaller amounts of omega-3 fats than finfish — and can be higher in cholesterol. But a Medical University of South Carolina study suggested that they aren’t bad for the heart.

Now if one reason you’ve avoided eating seafood is the fear of mercury, there are ways to alleviate the risk. The FDA has a list of fish that range from best to good to choices to avoid based on mercury levels. It even has advice for dealing with fish caught by family or friends to make sure it’s safe to eat.

Tips for Buying Seafood

If you’re not quite confident in how to buy seafood, you’re not alone. It can be tricky, especially if you don’t live near a body of water that produces local fisheries. So, here are some tips:

In general:

If you have access to a fishmonger or local seafood market, take advantage of their knowledge to guide you to the best choices and try to make those choices local if that’s available to you.
If you’re concerned about sustainability, use the website or app for Seafood Watch, which ranks seafood that is the best choice, certified, a good alternative, or something to avoid.

If you’re buying fresh:

Look for whole fish, fillets, or fish parts (like fish cheeks or collars) that have firm, shiny flesh.
Buy shellfish like clams and mussels that are alive.
A whole fish should have bright, clear, full eyes since the eyes are the first part of the fish to deteriorate. The gills should be bright red or pink.
Avoid fish fillets and steaks that have any brown or yellowish discoloration around the edges, or dry or mushy texture.
Smell the fish after the seller rinses it under cold water. It should smell fresh, not “fishy” or like ammonia.

If you’re buying frozen:

Avoid fish sporting ice crystals or frost. It’s either been frozen too long or frozen, defrosted, and then refrozen. Likewise, don’t buy packaged seafood with liquid in the package.
Don’t buy seafood that looks like it’s drying out.
The packaging should be intact, with no open, torn, or crushed edges.
Pass on packages above the display freezer’s frost line.

If you’re planning on purchasing fish, bring a cooler filled with ice packs and use it to transport your fish home. Then put your purchase in the refrigerator immediately.

Cooking Seafood for Beginners

Then there’s the final reason people tend to avoid preparing seafood at home. They just don’t know how. But seafood is actually very easy and often very quick to turn into a meal.

Let’s establish first that frying is out. The seafood may be intrinsically healthy, but preparation is key to keeping it healthy. That means steaming, poaching, baking, broiling, and grilling. The latter two techniques are best with oil-rich fish like salmon as well as shellfish.

Cooking seafood is mostly visual. When preparing shrimp, look for the pale, grayish color to turn pink. As soon as the shrimp are fully pink, remove them from the heat. Bay scallops and squid — what you may think of as calamari — will turn from translucent to opaque. For fish, it’s not much different. The shiny and translucent flesh turns opaque. Still not sure? Insert fork tines into the thickest part of the fish at a 45-degree angle and gently twist the fork. If the fish flakes easily, it’s done. If you’re concerned about overcooking fish, start with fatty fish like salmon and black cod. They tend to be very forgiving. Marinate them in a citrus-based vinaigrette and broil for about four minutes on one side, flip over, and cook three minutes on the other side. Add broccoli or asparagus to the pan with the fish and you’ve got a meal in less than 10 minutes.

The visuals also apply to making a chilled dish called ceviche. Even though the seafood isn’t heated, it is “cooked” by marinating it in natural acids, like lemon or lime juice. And, yes, it will turn opaque and firm.

You can also add fish or shellfish to dishes or ingredients you already enjoy. Here are some suggestions:

Add seafood to your tomato sauce and whole grain pasta. Shrimp, bay scallops, squid, and cubes of firm-fleshed fish like halibut or mahi-mahi are a wonderful addition to your tomato sauce. Once the sauce is almost ready for serving, drop in your seafood and a splash of fresh lemon juice, cover the pot, and let the sauce simmer for about five minutes as the seafood cooks.
Add seafood to your vegetable stir-fry. If you already make a great stir-fry, follow your recipe, and stir-fry the seafood at the end.
Poach shrimp, scallops, salmon, tuna, or cod fillets and add to a grain bowl, green salad, pasta, or omelet. Poaching is simple. Place ingredients like fresh herbs, onion slices, and/or lemon slices in a skillet. Add the seafood and just cover it with water and/or a little white wine. Cover and cook over medium heat. Once the fish is opaque, take it off the heat. Remove from the pan, let cool, then add to your dish.
Make seafood skewers with vegetables like sweet peppers, zucchini, pearl onions, and cherry tomatoes that you can cook on the grill or broil in the oven. Marinate your seafood pieces for a couple of hours ahead of time to add flavor.
Tacos! Feature poached, grilled, or lightly sauteed firm white fish, like tilapia or halibut, or shrimp or salmon.
Add seafood to a favorite vegetable-forward soup, whether chilled or hot.

Here are two favorite recipes that are easy and reliable:


Broiled Salmon with Garlic Ginger Lime Vinaigrette

Course Dinner
Servings 4 people


4 4- ounce salmon fillets skin on


Mix together the first six ingredients. Whisk in the olive oil until thoroughly blended.
Reserve about 3 tablespoons of the marinade to drizzle over the cooked salmon and place the rest in a sealable bag before adding the salmon fillets in a single layer. Seal the bag and make sure each fillet is slathered in the marinade. Refrigerate for an hour, skin side up.
Heat oven to broil. Line a pan with foil and spray or brush it lightly with olive oil. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and the bag, draining excess marinade, and place skin side down on the pan. Broil for 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another couple of minutes if you like crispy skin. Plate and drizzle the reserved marinade over each serving of salmon.

Please note that the nutritional information may vary depending
on the specific brands of products used. We encourage everyone to check specific
product labels in calculating the exact nutritional information.



Cod Ceviche With Mango and Quick Pickles


For marinade:

12 ounces raw cod or other firm fish or shellfish diced into ½” piecesFresh lime juice to cover — approximately 2 cups¼ teaspoon salt½ bunch cilantro rough chopped1/3 cup fresh mango diced10 drops of toasted sesame oil more or less

For pickles:

½ small red onion thinly sliced2 Persian cucumbers thinly sliced into rounds½ cup lime juice

For garnish:

1 teaspoon white and black toasted sesame seeds½ serrano chile shaved


Slice the cod into bite-sized pieces. Place in non-reactive bowl and add lime juice and salt. Marinate for two hours. Drain the cod. Mix in a bowl with the cilantro, mango, and sesame oil.
Combine the red onion, cucumber, and lime juice to marinate so it pickles—about 20 minutes. Drain the onions and cucumbers and add to the cod mixture.
To plate, spoon the ceviche into a margarita glass. Top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and a few slices of the shaved serrano chile.

Please note that the nutritional information may vary depending
on the specific brands of products used. We encourage everyone to check specific
product labels in calculating the exact nutritional information.

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