Food from Down Under: Add seafood to your plate!

buying-seafoodHeather O’Hearn
Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Health Care System

October is National Seafood Month, and what better way to celebrate than by enjoying your local catch of the day? Evidence has shown that including a variety of seafood in your diet can be a delicious way to protect your heart, and the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend enjoying 8 ounces of seafood per week for heart health.
You may have seen news reports detailing the dangers of overfishing or high mercury in seafood, but rest assured that with a little research, you can easily incorporate healthy and responsibly-sourced fish into your diet.
According to the National Resources Defense Council’s Smart Seafood Buying Guide (https://www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide), you can do your part by varying the types of seafood you purchase and by purchasing only from local providers or trusted retailers. Though salmon, tuna, and shrimp are some of the most popular seafood choices in America, Florida’s waters offer a number of equally versatile options, such as flounder, mullet, crabs, and oysters. In fact, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s “Fresh From Florida” program offers a number of tools you can use to make the best choices possible – use their Seafood Market Locator (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Food-Nutrition/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Seafood-Retail-Markets) to find the freshest catch nearby, or check their Seafood Availability Calendar (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Food-Nutrition/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Seafood-Products) to find out what’s in season. By choosing a variety of local fish that are in season, you can guarantee that you get the freshest, most flavorful seafood at the most reasonable price.
And don’t worry if you’ve never cooked with seafood before – most seafood cooks within minutes, and serves as a great base for a variety of different flavors. Set a tropical tone by serving haddock with a ripe peach and pepper salsa, or travel to New England with salmon cakes in a creamy dill sauce. Try a tangy Greek salad with sautéed sardines for a Mediterranean twist, or enjoy curried scallops and cilantro rice for a nod towards Asia. Whatever you decide, eat up and enjoy all the flavor and fun of fresh Florida seafood this month.