Seafood: Benefits Worth Sea-ing
Have you given up on lobster, shrimp and other seafood because you’re watching your cholesterol? Have your ever been told to stay away from seafood if you want to avoid heart disease? Well, you may be interested to know that the dietary cholesterol found in seafood and other meats has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people.
Researchers at the University of Washington have shown that most common shellfish eaten in the United States like squid, oysters, crabs, clams, shrimp, and mussels do not raise cholesterol levels. Squid and shrimp simply have no effect on cholesterol levels, while crabs and clams lower the overall levels, targeting specifically on LDLs (bad cholesterol). Mussels and oysters have the same effect, with the added bonus of raising HDLs (good cholesterol).
Most shellfish is naturally low in total fat and saturated fat, and only moderate in cholesterol content. Also, most of the fat it has is poly-unsaturated. In seafood, some of the sterols (fats) that were once thought to be cholesterol are actually a different kind. That means seafood can still fit into a heart healthy diet. Seafood is a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals; many varieties of seafood are also low in sodium and cholesterol.
Not only is seafood tasty, but it’s a low-calorie source of many essential nutrients as well. Fish is also a good source of vitamins B6, B12, biotin and niacin. Fish is also a good source of several minerals, especially iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Seafood contains about twenty percent of the high quality proteins of red meat and poultry. Because many diets now specify poly-unsaturated fat, rather than saturated fat, fish and shellfish make excellent main dishes. Some fish are relatively high in fat such as salmon, mackerel and catfish. However, the fat is primarily unsaturated.
Saturated fat has been wrongfully accused of causing heart disease. Saturated fat has shown to raise good (HDL) cholesterol more than it raises bad (LDL) cholesterol, making the net effect on our health a positive one. The good cholesterol takes excess cholesterol away and carries it back to the liver to be excreted. It can also remove some of the cholesterol already attached to the artery walls. Therefore not only does seafood not cause heart disease, it may even prevent it.
Trans fatty acids are the most important factors that raise cholesterol levels. Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, should be avoided. Trans fats are found in packaged snack foods, deep-fried foods or firm margarine containing hydrogenated oil. They are the worst fats and are harmful to our health like many other processed products.
Seafood is a fantastic way to raise the HDL levels and lower both LDLs and triglycerides. Physical activity can also raise HDL levels. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and fish can lower the LDL level. In addition, soluble fiber found in fruits, oats, barley, and legumes can also lower LDL.
Of course, portion control is the key. If you consume double the recommended portion of shellfish, then you must double the cholesterol content as well, which is okay as long as you are careful with your cholesterol intake for the rest of the day and you exercise. Keep in mind, added sauces or toppings like butter or breadcrumbs can significantly increase the overall fat and cholesterol content. The method of preparation is important also. Avoid fried shellfish and choose broiled or steamed dishes instead.
As we can see from scientific and medical studies, seafood is healthy for us and it’s also good at managing cholesterol levels. It has been shown that nutritional and diet therapy with exercise is more effective than any other method for people with watching their cholesterol levels, so focusing on seafood should be a priority for everyone. Now that modern freezing and shipping techniques make quality seafood available throughout the year and across the globe, we need to take advantage of the health benefits that great ocean has to offer us. Surely, they are benefits worth Sea-ing.