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Kai moana – food from the sea

Tick Dietitian, Rebecca McLean, talks about the health benefits of seafood.

It’s the time of year when boaties head out to sea to try their luck at fishing (tumu in Māori) and diving (ruku). Catches are brought ashore and friends and family enjoy the tastes of fresh seafood (kai moana). Fresh fish (ika) and seafood are also available at fish markets, food stores and supermarkets.

Many people already have their own favourite seafood recipes, whilst others experiment with new combinations of ingredients such as: lemon, coconut, tomato, tartare sauce, fresh herbs such as coriander, parsley and dill, sweet chilli, ginger and garlic.

What we eat has a big impact on our health, so we encourage people to enjoy foods that are good for their health so they can live life to the full.  Fish is one of those foods.  It is a good source of omega-3 fats, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Heart Foundation recommends that to get sufficient omega-3 for a healthy heart you need to eat fish or seafood twice a week, preferably oily fish.

Examples of oily fish are:
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, kahwai, warehou, mussels, oysters and squid.

Omega-3, particularly from seafood sources, is incorporated into cell membranes of almost every cell in the body. Our bodies can’t make these fatty acids very efficiently; therefore we need to consume them as part of our diet.

The health benefits of seafood consumption are numerous. Nutrients in seafood are important for memory, hearing, vision, asthma, immune function, bone health, preventing depression, and brain development. These nutrients include protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3), calcium, iron, selenium, iodine, thiamin and vitamin B12.

The Tick programme has categories for seafood – canned, plain and processed. Products in these categories with the Tick are lower in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium, and also need to have a seafood content of 50% or more.

Tips for when buying seafood:

  • Look for products with the Tick on pack
  • When buying fresh fish smell it (it shouldn’t smell fishy), touch it (the flesh should bounce back), look at it  (eyes of the fish should be clear)
  • Think about buying seafood in different ways such fresh, frozen, canned, vacuum packed or in jars
  • Choose seafood canned in spring water rather than brine –lower in sodium (salt)

Cooking tips:

  • Avoid deep frying
  •  Bake, steam, grill or lightly pan fry
  •  Use herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice instead of salt
  • Cook with healthier oils, such as those with the Tick
  • Serve with a side salad or vegetables

For information on sustainable types of fish see: