Follow MyPlate! Guidelines So You Don’t Blow the Benefits of a Heart-Healthy Responsible Choice Seafood Diet

myPlate

If you’re adding fish to your diet to maintain heart health – and you should – it’s easy to cancel out those benefits by filling the rest of your plate with unhealthy choices.

The best way to avoid this trap is to follow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate! guidelines. A quarter of the plate is protein, in this case, heart-healthy fish; half of the plate is fruits and vegetables; and the final quarter is grains.

For grains, choose a brown rice or whole-grain pasta. A trendy option is high-protein, gluten-free quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which is often used as a replacement for oatmeal or brown rice. You can make it savory by adding soy sauce and herbs and spices, or use it in a cold salad with peppers, onions and black beans, tossed in an oil and vinegar dressing.

Many people don’t get enough vegetables, so be sure to include a nice, large serving. There are no unhealthy vegetables. If it comes from the ground and is made in the dirt and not in the factory, it’s going to be good for us and have health benefits. But we can do some unbeneficial things to vegetables by putting too much oil or salt in it during processing.

There are two categories of vegetables – starchy and non-starchy. The starchy vegetables are potatoes, peas, corn and legumes. They’re still very nutritious, but they have higher calories. For those who are adding more fish to their diets for heart health, or weight and diabetes control, limiting quantities is important.

One vegetable in this group that gets a bad rap because it contains carbohydrates is the white potato, but potatoes also contain beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Again, portion control is the key. Choose portions the size of a fist, not a shoe. Some salt, pepper and butter are OK, but if you add sour cream, cheese and bacon bits, or process the potatoes into chips, you’re losing the benefits.

The non-starchy vegetables include everything else – tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower, eggplant, onions and so forth. You can eat these in unlimited quantities, but again, watch what you’re topping the with, like heavy cheese sauces.

Finally, make sure that you’re getting enough fruit, which also contains antioxidants and fiber. Because fruits can cause a rise in blood sugar, watch your intake and the amount you eating, especially if you’re diabetic. A good rule of thumb is a one-half cup portion, which has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. That’s an apple the size of a tennis ball.

If you can get three or four of these food groups in a meal, you’re doing a good job. Think about food as preventive medicine. I’m a big believer that the solution needs to be food, not a pill.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood Soothes Your Conscience While Contributing to Heart and Brain Health

Hy-Vee’s new Responsible Choice seafood initiative is taking away some of the worry for people who want the health benefits of seafood, but don’t want to contribute to over-fishing and other practices that threaten the supply of seafood and damage the environment.

Dieticians recommended that people eat two to three servings – each in the 3- to 4-ounce range – of fish per week. We know there are health benefits, such as lowering the risk for strokes or heart attacks and increasing brain health, but research also suggests that eating more fish lowers the risk for certain kinds of cancer.

Salmon Filets with Cutting BoardThe top reason for that? Fish are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Of the three essential Omega-3s – Eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – only EPA and DHA are found exclusively in seafood and marine algae.

ALA is also found in plants, such as flax, walnuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, and although it’s true that ALA can be converted by the body to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is very low. Only a fraction of a percent is actually converted to EPA and DHA.

If you’re looking to improve your heart and brain health, salmon and tuna are great sources for Omega-3 acids, but so are trout, mackerel and herring. On the other hand, seafood species like shrimp, crab, lobster and clams have very little Omega-3 content.

That’s not to say they’re not healthy. They’re still extremely nutritious. Shrimp, for example, is a great source of protein.

Many times when people are trying to lose weight, they think the only answer is to cut back on what they eat. That can backfire, because it leaves them feeling hungry. Eating more protein can keep them feeling full and satisfied. That’s also helpful in maintaining blood sugars. When you increase your protein intake, you don’t have those highs and lows that can lead to hunger and lack of concentration.

If you want to lose weight, seafood is a great high-protein, low-calorie center-plate replacement that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. When adding more seafood to your diet as part of a weight-loss plan, look for nutrient dense species.

The calories you’re getting will be very well spent, because you’ll get a lot of nutrients with them – protein, beneficial fats and other nutrients. Clams for example, have 30 percent of your daily need for iron, as well calcium and other vitamins.

All seafood is beneficial. The only possible downside is mercury content – especially in shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Visit Hy-Vee’s seafood counter for more information about seafood species that are both low in mercury and Responsible Choices.

Besides looking at how the fish was caught and the effect on the ocean’s environment, Hy-Vee’s suppliers also consider seafood’s safety for consumption.