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Why is fish good for heart health?

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fish, especially “oily fish” such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. These are a type of polyunsaturated fat that our bodies cannot manufacture or can’t produce in sufficient amounts. Omega-3 fatty acids, also called omega-3 oils, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by:

  • Lowering triglyceride levels;
  • Reducing the formation of clots by reducing the stickiness of platelets;
  • Decreasing the risk of arrhythmias;
  • Reducing inflammation of the blood vessels;
  • Dilating blood vessels, which keeps blood flowing smoothly and lowers blood pressure.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Cold-water, fatty fish such as salmon, herring and tuna are good sources of Omega 3 fats. These fats have been found to have many positive effects on our heart health such as lowering triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, decreasing inflammation in our blood vessels. However, it is important to prepare them in a heart-healthy manner such as baking, broiling, grilling, steaming rather than frying to get the most benefit. Other fish such as tilapia and catfish have higher levels of unhealthy fats and therefore would not provide the same benefits.

Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein that are typically lower in saturated fat than other animal proteins. In addition, several varieties of fish — such as mackerel, herring, salmon, trout, and sardines — are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. People who eat fish often have lower heart disease rates. Based on this, the American Heart Association recommends that people eat fish 2 to 3 times each week. Please note that mercury is increasingly common in many sea fish. To protect yourself, eat no more than 12 ounces a week of these fish: halibut, sea bass, swordfish, mackerel, grouper, red snapper, and orange roughly.

One of the American Heart Association’s top diet strategies to beat heart disease is to eat two fish (preferably oily fish) meals (3.5 ounces each) weekly to reduce the risk of heart disease. Fish is not only low in heart-unhealthy saturated fat but also provides heart-healthy, omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that these fatty acids may prevent irregular heart-beats, reduce atherosclerosis, and mildly lower blood pressure.

Americans are currently consuming only about 0.1 to 0.2 grams of omega 3s daily, on average, as compared to the 0.5 grams recommended a day. Two fish meals a week will not only meet this daily recommendation but also displace saturated-fat laden protein-rich food, such as hot dogs, regular ground beef, and fried chicken on the plate.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.