The 5 Types of Sealife Central to the Mediterranean Diet

Hundreds of fish are indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea. But this list highlights the top five seafood varieties that are typically included in a Mediterranean diet.

1

Salmon is one of the top sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which is why it’s at the top of the beneficial seafood list.

Beyond omega-3s, a 4-ounce serving of salmon also contains your daily recommended vitamin D needs. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption to protect your bone health; it also helps regulate blood pressure. For even more nutritional punch and a crunchy taste, keep the omega-3 dense skin on, especially if you’ve selected a high-quality, low-contaminant piece of salmon (the toxins often concentrate in the skin).

Both wild and farmed salmon are relatively low in mercury. If farmed fish are fed more plant foods than fish, they have a lower omega-3 fatty acid content. Sometimes farmed salmon contain other toxins, like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), but not all farmed salmon are created equal. When choosing salmon, opt for U.S., farm-raised Atlantic salmon or wild Alaskan or coho salmon.

2

Sardines are one of those foods you may scrunch your nose up at, even if you’re a fish lover. But they’re also one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.

Sardines are often canned, which preserves them (they’re very perishable), but if you can find them fresh, they’re even more nutritious.

Sardines are not only nutritious; they’re also sustainable, devoid of toxins, and very inexpensive. To get the ball rolling on ways to incorporate sardines into your diet, try mashing them up onto whole wheat toast or crackers with mustard; add fresh, grilled sardines to a salad; or cook them with tomato sauce and veggies.

It’s believed that the name “sardine” came from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where they were abundant. Now they’re readily available in the Mediterranean Sea.

3

Tuna is a popular fish in the Mediterranean and in America, too!

Tuna is a very versatile, delicious, and nutritious fish, full of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and selenium, a mineral that helps fight inflammation. Also, a 3-ounce serving of tuna provides 25 grams of protein, which could be about one-third to one-half of your needs for the entire day.

In America, classic tuna salad is often prepared with a glob of mayonnaise, adding unnecessary calories and fat to your dish. Instead, try the Mediterranean tuna salad (one of my favorite green salad toppers or sandwich stuffers): tuna mixed with olive oil, lemon, olives, onion, and often artichokes — no mayonnaise.

4

Mussels are a type of clam. They have a lot of muscle, both literally and figuratively.

The shell consists of two halves connected by a ligament, and internal muscles keep it tightly closed. To get to the meat inside, you either have to split open the shell using a special knife or cook the muscle until the shell opens.

Mussels, and other bivalves, like oysters, are environmentally friendly, improving water quality by feeding off the nutrients in the water.

You may underestimate the benefit of mussels because they’re small or because you’re familiar with them as moules frites (served with a plate of french fries). But a 3-ounce serving contains just 70 calories and offers omega-3s, vitamin B12, selenium, and folate, making them a valuable source of protein. So skip the fries, and eat mussels steamed or cooked in white wine, lemon, and herbs for a healthy and light dish.

5

Oysters are an important food source for people in coastal areas, and they are considered a delicacy worldwide.

Oysters last longer than most shellfish — up to four weeks out of water when refrigerated — and are typically served raw on the half-shell over ice with lemon juice, vinegar, and cocktail sauce; sometimes they’re served with no condiments at all. They can also be cooked.

If you have a weak immune system or are at high risk for disease, don’t eat raw oysters, because they may contain a bacteria that causes illness. Also, if you are pregnant, avoid all raw fish, which is more likely than cooked fish to contain parasites.

 
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