Gina Neely touring to promote healthy eating

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Celebrity Chef Gina Neely is traveling around the country to help individuals find different ways in which they can celebrate seafood.

Neely, known for her hit Food Channel Network show “Down Home with the Neelys,” is a Seafood Ambassador with the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire a healthier America through partnerships that raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of eating seafood.

The tour arrived in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, October 7, 2015.

“With seafood, many people feel it’s overwhelming and they wonder whether they can cook it,” Neely said in a web posting prior to her visit to Washington, D.C.

“We are encouraging people to eat seafood at least two times a week because it reduces your risk of a heart attack,” she said, noting that being a Seafood Ambassador is personal because her father died of a heart attack.

With Neely aboard as an ambassador, the Seafood Nutrition Partnership has launched a national public health campaign, a three-year effort to educate Americans about the link between seafood nutrition and heart health.

The campaign will initially focus on nine cities with high rates of cardiovascular disease.

“We’re going to Birmingham, Alabama; Lexington, Kentucky; Toledo, Ohio; West Virginia and other places,” Neely said.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of more Americans prematurely than any other preventable disease, organization officials said in a news release.

The grassroots education campaign was launched during October— National Seafood Month.

Neely says the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dietary guidelines include eating seafood twice a week. Research has revealed that such a diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 36 percent.

Last year, the Seafood Nutrition Partnership concluded its “Eating Heart Healthy” pilot program, which was conducted in partnership with Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston targeting low-income women with a high rate of cardiovascular disease. The program was designed to help women curb their risk of heart disease through a seafood-rich diet.

For four weeks, female residents of Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, a nonprofit affordable housing community for low- and moderate-income families, participated in heart health focused talks and cooking demonstrations, sampled omega-3 capsules, and were provided seafood recipes that can feed a family of four for $10 per meal.

At the end of the program, it was estimated that 92 percent of participants lowered their risk of sudden cardiac death, and 6 in 10 participants were at a lower risk for general cardiac problems.

“I try to eat well, but it’s difficult to cook healthy meals when you work full-time,” said Jacquie Boston, an Eating Heart Healthy program participant and resident of Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. “The Eating Heart Healthy program transformed my life and my family’s life. Now, I have the skills to prepare heart healthy meals.”

Neely, who recently turned 50, says she changed her eating habits because she “wants to be around to partner with people who are all about health.”

“It fell right into my hands,” Neely said of her ambassadorship with the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. “Everything you put in your body should be good and we should exercise because our heart is like an engine and just like a car, we’ve got to keep it moving and take care of our body.”

For healthy recipes and more information, visit www.seafoodnutrition.org.