Help your heart by eating more fish

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Help your heart by eating more fish

If heart disease is a concern of yours, consider eating more fish.  Having one to two servings a week of seafood could reduce your risk of developing heart disease. 

The American Heart Association has long recommended we eat more fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week.  However, not just any fish will do.  Fatty fish is the preferred type to choose as it is a good source of the fatty acids better known as omega-3’s.  These unsaturated fats when substituted for saturated fatty acids, may lower your cholesterol. 

Omega-3’s are a type of unsaturated fatty acid appearing to work their magic for your heart by lowering inflammation throughout the body.  It is believed that inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels which can lead to heart disease and strokes. 

These same omega-3 fatty acids may also lower triglycerides, blood pressure, blood clotting, stroke risk, and heart failure in addition to reducing irregular heartbeats. 

Does it matter what kind of fish to eat?

The best types of fish to choose are those called fatty fish.  Fatty fish, also known as cold water fish, include salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna.  Each of these different types contains a good percentage of omega-3 fatty acids making them more beneficial than other types of fish which contain a smaller amount.

Are there certain fish to avoid?

Some popular fish many choose include tilapia and catfish.  However, they do not appear to be as heart healthy since they contain higher levels of unhealthy fatty acids.  The method of preparation of the fish also matters.  For example, broiling or baking fish is a healthier option than deep-frying.

 Another concern is fish produced on farms as opposed to wild-caught fish.  Researchers believe antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals used in raising farmed fish may cause harmful effects to people who eat the fish.  However, some farmed fish – salmon, sea bass, and trout – have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than their wild counterparts. 

What is the recommended amount of fish to eat?

The recommended serving for adults is to eat at least two servings of omega-3 fatty fish a week.  A serving size is 3.5 ounces which is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.  It is best to grill, sauté, bake, or steam fish. 

Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and young children should limit the amount of fish as they are more susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish.  Some fish live in polluted waters and may be contaminated by mercury and PCSs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  If you eat too much contaminated fish, that can offset the heart healthy benefits.  To avoid this, eat a variety of fish and check where the fish came from.