Get hooked on fish for heart health
Fish is a welcome meal in almost any diet, with benefits for the heart, brain, and body. Packed with protein, fish makes a healthy alternative to red meat.
How often should you eat fish?
Eating fatty fish twice a week can help protect against heart disease in both healthy people and those at higher risk for heart problems.
Eat no more than 12 ounces per week (about 2 or 3 average meals) of a variety of fish low in mercury and choose wild fish whenever possible.
Women of child-bearing age and young children should eat fish low in mercury and limit mid-level-mercury fish like albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week*. You can also eat heart-healthy foods like nuts, flaxseeds, fruits, vegetables, tofu, and whole grains instead of fish.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Fatty fish is low in “bad” saturated fat, and high in “good” omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish fat and oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, improve brain function, and may reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Excellent fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
Although other options are often on the menu, fish such as farmed tilapia and catfish are low in heart-protecting omega-3 fats.
Fish oil supplements
If you don’t like to eat fish, you may want to consider taking fish oil supplements instead.
Fish oil supplements may be helpful for people with existing heart conditions, and possibly for people with some auto-immune disorders. Recommended amounts vary depending on why you’re taking them, so talk to your health care practitioner first.
If you take anticoagulants (blood thinners), have a bleeding disorder, or uncontrolled hypertension, do not take fish oil supplements without first discussing it with your doctor.
Risks and environmental concerns
Like all foods — even healthy ones — too much can do more harm than good. Learn about mercury and which fish are safest to eat to get all the advantages of fish without the potential risks
Environmental concerns such as overfishing, killing endangered species, and trapping marine life in fishing nets can be another factor when deciding which fish to buy and eat.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has created Seafood Watch , a program designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. Their website discusses environmental issues in the fishing industry and provides a wallet-sized card of environmentally friendly fish choices that you can print out and carry with you to the grocery store and restaurants.
* Source: The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency
Reviewed by: Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD, June 2014
©2014 Kaiser Permanente