For people who want to look and feel healthier, Sea Island nutritionist Joyce Mattox has a simple message: Eat more seafood.
“We want people to look and feel their very best,” she said Tuesday. “What’s an easier way than delicious, local seafood? The beauty is that seafood can really make a difference in how your body performs and how it ages.”
Mattox and other area leaders have joined together as part of a national heart-health initiative, Seafood Nutrition Partnership, to raise awareness about the health benefits of a diet rich in seafood. The program is aimed at getting people to pledge to eat seafood at least twice a week, as recommended by government guidelines.
Mattox, who has been advising people on their diets for more than 20 years, said seafoods — like shrimp, fish and clams — can be just as filling as fatty, fried foods, but without that “after fast-food feeling.”
“Seafood has fat, but it’s very satisfying,” she said. “Seafood rejuvenates. Some foods are abusive, like junk food. You eat it, and you have that quick little high that falls in a few seconds. It’s not that way with seafood. It gives you satisfaction for five to six hours because it stays with you.”
As a dietician, Mattox also said seafoods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps ease joint pain and can even help clear up skin issues like eczema.
“All that fish oil makes your joints juicy and feel good,” she said. “It makes them feel good again. I have eczema and I eat fish two times a week, and my eczema has almost gone away.”
While eating seafood isn’t a cure-all for conditions and diseases, it can help reduce cholesterol and overall weight gain, Mattox said. Even Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey has jumped aboard the campaign.
“I became a Seafood Nutrition Partnership Ambassador last year, and I pledged to eat seafood at least twice a week,” he said in a statement. “I took the pledge very seriously, and also began taking better care of my overall health. Today, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since the military, and it all started by simply eating more seafood.”
Lucky for Harvey and other locals, seafood is not in short supply in the Golden Isles. At St. Simons Seafood, a market on Demere Road, owner BJ Egeman said she’s seeing more and more people switch to seafood for their health.
“I sell a lot of grouper, salmon, triple tail and flounder, actually,” she said at her store on Tuesday. “The grouper is going to be meatier, because it comes off in bigger chucks. Some of the others are flakier. Personally, I love shrimp. I eat shrimp every day.”
Egeman has owned her store for nearly 20 years, and sells a variety of seafood, ranging from wild-caught Georgia shrimp to freshly made crab cakes ready for the frying pan. She said she sees many of her customers coming in to buy fresh seafood as part of a healthy diet.
“A lot of people have to eat salmon because of their cholesterol,” she said. “A lot of people have to lose weight, so they go with the white fish, like grouper, mainly.”
It’s not just the customers dropping a few pounds by trading out a cheeseburger for a fish filet, though.
“I can eat flounder in the morning and at night for two-and-a-half days and drop about four pounds,” Egeman said. “It is just because it’s so light. The founder I love to sauté with oil, butter, lemon, dill and capers.”
On average, Egeman said she eats fish about twice a week, and scallops about once a week. She recognizes that fresh fish can be expensive, but “you get what you pay for,” she said.
Like Egeman, Mattox said simple meals are a good way for people new to seafood to give it a try.
“Seafood doesn’t take a lot to cook,” Mattox said. “How hard is to take a piece of fish, put it on parchment paper, put dijon mustard and basil, and rub it on that fish? Take a sweet potato and put it in the oven at 400 to 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. You’ve got your whole meal and it’s delicious.”
Mattox also said frozen fish offers the same nutritional value as fresh-caught fish. Part of a nutritious meal is balancing what’s served along with the fish, Mattox added.
“Make half your plate vegetables, and a quarter protein, and the other quarter a bean or starch that you like,” Mattox said.