Seafood Choices for Diabetes: What to Avoid & Why

by Ella

Diabetes, a chronic metabolic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, affects millions of individuals worldwide. While managing diabetes primarily involves monitoring carbohydrate intake and blood glucose levels, making informed choices about seafood is also crucial for maintaining optimal health. Seafood is often hailed for its nutritional benefits, but not all seafood is created equal for individuals with diabetes. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the seafood options that may not be the best choice for those managing diabetes, exploring their potential impact on blood sugar and overall health.

Understanding Diabetes and Nutrition

Diabetes, a prevalent global health issue, is characterized by the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin, leading to high blood glucose levels.


There are two primary types of diabetes: Type 1, where the body fails to produce insulin, and Type 2, where the body doesn’t use insulin effectively.


It’s a challenging condition to manage but understanding nutrition can pave the way to a healthier life despite the diagnosis.


Overview of Diabetes

Diabetes is not just about high blood sugar; it can lead to serious complications like heart disease, kidney damage, and vision problems, if not managed properly.


It’s not a one-size-fits-all condition either – it’s a highly individualized disease. That’s why it’s really important to understand diabetes to manage it well. Good nutrition is a key part of managing the condition successfully.

Importance of Nutrition in Managing Diabetes

Living with diabetes means paying close attention to what you eat. The right diet can help control blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent or manage heart disease.

The crux lies in understanding the balance between the food you eat, the medication you take, and the physical activity you engage in. Foods rich in fiber, whole grains, and lean proteins play a vital role in maintaining this balance.

The Importance of Seafood in a Diabetic Diet

Seafood is a valuable component of a diabetic diet for several reasons:

Lean Protein Source: Seafood is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and promote feelings of fullness.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to reduced inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and a lower risk of heart disease.

Low in Saturated Fat: Most seafood is low in saturated fat, making it a heart-healthy choice for those with diabetes who are at a higher risk of cardiovascular complications.

Nutrient Density: Seafood is packed with essential nutrients like vitamins D and B12, selenium, and iodine, which are beneficial for overall health.

Benefits of Seafood

Rich Source of Essential Nutrients: Seafood is packed with essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s an excellent source of vitamins B12 and D, iodine, selenium, and zinc, which are vital for various bodily functions, including immune system support, bone health, and cognitive function.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are renowned for their high omega-3 fatty acid content. These fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been linked to numerous health benefits, including:

  • Heart Health: Omega-3s can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglycerides, reducing blood pressure, and preventing plaque buildup in arteries.
  • Brain Health: DHA is essential for brain development and function, and regular consumption of omega-3s may help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • Inflammation: Omega-3s possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Low in Saturated Fat: Most seafood is naturally low in saturated fat, making it a heart-healthy option. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats found in seafood can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Weight Management: Seafood is a lean source of protein that can help you feel full and satisfied, potentially reducing overall calorie intake. It’s a valuable addition to a weight management plan.

Support for Healthy Skin: The omega-3 fatty acids in seafood can contribute to healthy, radiant skin. They help maintain skin moisture, reduce inflammation, and may alleviate symptoms of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Eye Health: Some types of seafood, such as salmon and trout, contain antioxidants like astaxanthin and lutein, which are beneficial for eye health. Regular consumption may help protect against age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems.

Bone Health: Seafood provides essential nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, which are crucial for strong and healthy bones. These nutrients play a role in bone mineralization and can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis.

Improved Mood: Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with improved mood and a reduced risk of depression. Consuming seafood regularly may contribute to better mental well-being.

Reduced Risk of Certain Diseases: Regular consumption of seafood has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer, including colorectal and prostate cancer.

Specific Benefits of Seafood for Diabetics

Low Glycemic Index: Most seafood has a low glycemic index (GI), which means it has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels when consumed. This is especially important for people with diabetes, as it helps prevent rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar, promoting better glycemic control.

High-Quality Protein: Seafood is an excellent source of lean protein, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass, repairing tissues, and promoting a feeling of fullness. Protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for high-carbohydrate snacks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. These essential fats have several diabetes-specific benefits:

  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Omega-3s may enhance insulin sensitivity, making it easier for cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream.
  • Reduced Inflammation: Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate inflammation often associated with diabetes and its complications.
  • Heart Health: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, and omega-3s can lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascular events.
  • Reduced Risk of Diabetic Complications: Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood may help reduce the risk of diabetic complications, including diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) and retinopathy (eye damage), by promoting overall vascular health.

Weight Management: Seafood can be a beneficial part of a weight management plan for individuals with diabetes. The high protein content can promote satiety and aid in weight loss or maintenance.

Blood Pressure Regulation: Some seafood, such as mackerel and salmon, contains bioactive peptides that may have blood pressure-lowering effects, which is crucial for managing diabetes-related hypertension.

Heart-Healthy Fats: Seafood provides a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which can replace saturated and trans fats in the diet. This substitution can lead to better cardiovascular health, especially important for those with diabetes who are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Improved Lipid Profile: Regular consumption of seafood can improve lipid profiles by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol) and reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) levels.

Glucose Regulation: Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in glucose regulation by enhancing insulin secretion and reducing inflammation in pancreatic cells.

See Also: Fish Selection for Diabetics: A Comprehensive Guide

Seafood to Be Cautious About

While seafood generally offers numerous health benefits for individuals with diabetes, there are specific types that should be consumed in moderation or avoided due to their potential impact on blood sugar levels.

1. Breaded and Fried Seafood

Breaded and fried seafood, such as fish sticks and deep-fried shrimp, can be high in unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. The breading and frying process significantly increases their calorie and carbohydrate content, making them less suitable for people with diabetes. The added breading may also contain refined grains that can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.

2. Seafood Dishes High in Added Sugar

Some seafood dishes, particularly those that involve sweet sauces or marinades, can be high in added sugars. For instance, sweet and sour shrimp or teriyaki salmon may contain sugar-laden sauces that can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. It’s important for individuals with diabetes to be mindful of such dishes and choose alternatives with lower sugar content.

3. Smoked and Cured Seafood

Smoked and cured seafood, like smoked salmon and pickled herring, can be high in sodium, which can raise blood pressure and potentially worsen diabetes-related complications. Individuals with diabetes should consume these items in moderation and pay attention to their overall sodium intake.

4. Shellfish with High Cholesterol Content

Certain shellfish, including shrimp and crab, have higher cholesterol levels than other seafood. While dietary cholesterol may have less impact on blood cholesterol levels than previously thought, people with diabetes should still monitor their cholesterol intake. It’s advisable to consume these shellfish in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Healthier Seafood Choices for Diabetes

While certain types of seafood can be detrimental to individuals with diabetes, there are plenty of healthier seafood options that can be included in a balanced diet:

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are excellent choices for individuals with diabetes. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation. These fish can help stabilize blood sugar levels and offer numerous cardiovascular benefits.

2. Shellfish

Shellfish, including shrimp, crab, lobster, and clams, are generally low in carbohydrates and can be included in a diabetes-friendly diet. They are also good sources of protein and essential nutrients like zinc and vitamin B12.

3. Fresh Whitefish

Fresh whitefish like cod, haddock, and flounder are lean protein sources with minimal carbohydrates. They can be grilled, baked, or broiled with minimal added fats, making them suitable for diabetes management.

4. Canned Tuna and Salmon

Canned tuna and salmon are convenient options that can be included in salads, sandwiches, or wraps. Choose canned varieties packed in water or olive oil to avoid added sugars and unhealthy fats.

5. Sushi (in moderation)

Sushi can be a healthy choice when enjoyed in moderation. Opt for sashimi (thin slices of raw fish) or nigiri (fish on top of a small bed of rice) rather than rolls that are often filled with rice and high-carbohydrate ingredients. Additionally, choose brown rice when available for a lower glycemic index.

See Also: Best Sushi Rolls Recipes to Make At Home: A How-To Guide

How Diabetics Eat Seafood Healthily

Eating seafood healthily is not only possible for individuals with diabetes but also highly beneficial. Seafood provides essential nutrients and can be a valuable part of a balanced diabetic diet. Here are some tips on how diabetics can incorporate seafood into their diet in a healthy and diabetes-friendly manner:

Choose Lean Seafood: Opt for lean seafood options like white fish (e.g., cod, haddock, tilapia), shrimp, crab, and clams. These varieties are lower in fat and calories than fatty fish like salmon or mackerel.

Mindful Preparation: Avoid breaded and fried seafood, as the breading and frying process can add unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. Instead, choose cooking methods like grilling, baking, broiling, steaming, or poaching to retain the seafood’s nutritional value without adding unnecessary calories.

Limit Added Sugars and Sauces: Be cautious of seafood dishes that come with sugary sauces or marinades. Ask for these sauces on the side or choose dishes with low-sugar alternatives. Opt for fresh herbs, lemon juice, or a sprinkle of spices to enhance flavor without adding sugar.

Avoid Excessive Sodium: Some seafood, especially processed or cured varieties, can be high in sodium. Individuals with diabetes should monitor their sodium intake to manage blood pressure. Choose fresh or frozen seafood over canned options when possible, as they tend to have lower sodium levels.

Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating. A standard serving of fish or seafood is typically about 3-4 ounces (85-113 grams). Controlling portion sizes helps manage calorie and carbohydrate intake, which is essential for blood sugar control.

Balance the Plate: Create balanced meals by pairing seafood with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, or a side salad. These vegetables are low in carbohydrates and provide essential nutrients.

Carbohydrate Monitoring: If you’re eating a seafood dish that includes carbohydrate-containing ingredients (e.g., rice, pasta, bread), be mindful of your carbohydrate intake and consider adjusting your insulin or medication accordingly.

Choose Whole Grains: If you prefer to have grains with your seafood, opt for whole grains like brown rice or quinoa instead of refined grains like white rice or pasta. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index and provide more fiber.

Incorporate Fatty Fish Wisely: Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. While they are healthy, be mindful of portion sizes because they contain more calories. A 3-4 ounce serving of fatty fish can still provide the benefits of omega-3s without excess calories.

See Also: Frozen Seafood vs. Fresh Seafood: Which Is More Suitable for You


Incorporating seafood into a diabetes-friendly diet can offer numerous health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, and enhanced heart health. However, not all seafood is created equal, and individuals with diabetes should be cautious about certain types, such as breaded and fried varieties, seafood dishes high in added sugar, smoked and cured seafood, and shellfish with high cholesterol content.

To make seafood a valuable part of a diabetic diet, it’s important to choose cooking methods that maintain a low glycemic index, pair seafood with low-GI foods, practice portion control, and monitor individual responses. Ultimately, seafood can be a healthy and delicious addition to a diabetes management plan when chosen and prepared thoughtfully. Always consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized dietary guidance tailored to your specific needs and goals.



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023