As North Carolinians, we’re incredibly fortunate to live relatively close to the coast. Just two hours away, there is an ocean full of abundant, heart-healthy seafood that can offer a great change of pace for your summer diet. From North Carolina snapper to catfish, blue crab and clams, indulging in the wealth of seafood our NC coast has to offer is a great way to sizzle up your summer – and get a heart healthy source of protein.
If you’re unfamiliar with seafood or overwhelmed by how to shop for or prepare it – not to fret. We’ve put together this “snappy” guide to NC summer seafood in hopes that our heart patients will be adventurous enough to try incorporating these nutrient-rich, heart-healthy foods into your diet.
Why Your Heart Loves Seafood
When it comes to food, few categories can rival the health benefits of seafood. That’s because most seafood is low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat – and also provides a great source of protein. In addition, the greatest unique benefit of seafood is the omega-3 fatty acids that are prevalent in many varieties of fish and marine life.
This “magic ingredient” is well known for its heart-protective benefits – as well as its ability to prevent chronic disease and inflammation. Specific health conditions that have seen improvement with omega-3s include: high cholesterol (specifically, triglycerides), rheumatoid arthritis, depression, asthma, Alzheimer’s/dementia and ADHD.
Two of the best types of omega-3s are EPA and DHA – both of which are common in most varieties of seafood. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week – or getting 0.5 to 1.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. Tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring and bluefish are among the highest in omega-3s, but common NC seafoods such as catfish, blue crab,
shrimp and snapper also provide a good source.
Local Catch – Hot Summer Seafoods in NC
Fresh seafood tastes so much better than frozen seafood – and buying what’s in season is a great way to get affordable seafood all summer. According to the NC Department of Agriculture, here’s what you’re most likely to find in fish markets and restaurants in the summer months in our area.
- Black Sea Bass
- Blue Crab
- Spanish Mackerel
- Yellowfin Tuna
At the Market (or Grocery Store) – Shopping Tips
Knowing how to shop for seafood can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to go or what to look for. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when you head to the market.
#1 – Buy Local.
Always ask if the fish is caught locally. Summer in NC is a great time to buy freshly caught fish.
#2 – Smell Before You Buy.
Fresh fish should not smell “fishy.” It should smell like the ocean!
#3 – Check the Texture.
When possible, feel the fish. It should be firm, yet springy enough to “bounce back” when you press on it. If it doesn’t, the fish is either old or has been frozen. The skin shouldn’t feel slimy to
#4 – Keep it Cool.
When you buy the fish, ensure it’s sealed in water-tight packaging and ideally, on ice. As soon as you get home, store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator – usually in the bottom toward the back.
#5 – Give it a Good Look.
Good fish should have a shiny flesh that’s uniformly colored. If it appears bruised or discolored, it may have been stored or handled improperly, which can impact the flavor.
In the Kitchen – Preparation Tips
There are so many heart healthy ways to prepare and serve seafood. While you may have been raised on calabash-style seafood, it’s best to stay away from anything deep fried. Using other cooking methods will actually allow you to appreciate the depth of flavor that the perfect blend of seafood and spices can provide. Here are some methods to try at home.
#1 – Saute/Pan Fry
If you love the crunch of fried fish, this is a healthier alternative that lends itself to breaded fillets or salmon steaks. Get out your best non-stick pan and cooking spray, and be sure to get the pan nice and hot before you start.
#2 – Bake
Baking is one of the heart healthiest and easiest ways to prepare fish – and works especially well for a thicker cut. To prevent drying, cover in foil.
#3 – Grill
Summer is the perfect time for grilling fish, but save this method for fattier/meatier fish to prevent sticking. For best results, brush the grates with oil before you get started, and place the fish at least four inches above the heat source to avoid scorching and sticking.
#4 – Poach
This simple cooking method involves cooking the fish in a heated liquid such as water/milk, cooking wine, stock and/or herbs. You’ll need just enough liquid to cover the fish, and keeping it at a low simmer will prevent crumbling/drying. You can use the leftover liquid to make a great, flavorful sauce.
#5 – Steam
Steamed fish is great for a fast, flavorful meal. Using either a bamboo steamer or parchment paper in the oven, add your favorite spices, light sauces (think soy or citrus juice) and fast-cooking vegetables for great flavor. You’ll know it’s done when the center of the fish is warm.
#6 – Broil
This speedy cooking method is great for fillets. Using a broiler rack coated in cooking spray, broil the fish for approximately five minutes or until it starts turning brown. Fish should flake easily with a fork. For a burst of flavor, drizzle with a blend of lemon juice, olive oil and your choice of spices.
#7 – Sous-Vide
This French term teams “under vacuum,” and involves slow-cooking fish in a plastic pouch in a pot of water at a lower temperature. If you have a vacuum sealer, adding fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and some lemon juice makes this an easy preparation method.
Buying and preparing your own seafood allows you to control what goes into each meal so you can be 100% sure it’s heart healthy. Not sure where to get seafood locally? Here are a few great, local venues to buy fresh seafood.
1414 S. Saunders Street, Raleigh
This historic Raleigh landmark has been providing fresh seafood from the NC coast for more than 50 years. Originally started by Mr. & Mrs. Herbert & Mary Earp, the market is still run by family today. They’re open from 8:30 am to 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday).
8401 Honeycutt Road, Raleigh
(910) 376-1900 | MaddenSeafood.com
The pop-up style seafood market is just across from Lafayette Village in North Raleigh and is run by Raleigh local Scott Madden. Providing freshly-caught seafood from Surf City, NC on a weekly basis, they are open on Fridays and Saturdays and encourage you to pre-order to ensure you get what you’re looking for.
Learn More About the WakeMed Heart Center
For decades, the WakeMed Heart Center has been the top destination in the region for heart surgery. To learn more, take a virtual tour, request an appointment with a surgeon – or stop by anytime. Our caring staff would love to meet you!
About Coleen Hanson Smith
Coleen Hanson Smith is a freelance healthcare writer with 20 years of editorial, PR and marketing experience. She’s passionate about doing work that matters. As such, Coleen’s specialty areas are aligned with her personal passions which include: healthcare/hospital/physician practice/health & wellness; technology/B2B; parenting; and philanthropy/non-profit.