NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Feed Your Heart: Eat More Fish

heart disease, heart-related diseases, fish, heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

More men and women die every year from heart disease than any other cause. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of heart-related diseases through lifestyle choices.

Fish is a heart-healthy way to incorporate protein into your diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and is low in saturated fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to those with heart disease or those at risk of the disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also may play a role in reducing inflammation in the body and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Fatty fish is high in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring are examples of fatty fish high in these omega-3 fatty acids.

Other fish and seafood do contain small amounts of these fatty acids, but fatty fish are the best sources. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fatty fish most often when eating seafood.

Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids are plant foods that contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). This omega-3 fatty acid is found in walnuts, soybeans, tofu, canola and flaxseed. Studies have suggested that alpha-linoleic acid benefits those at risk for coronary heart disease, but more research needs to be done in this area to confirm the relationship.

Environmental contaminants such as mercury are a concern when consuming fish and seafood. Marine mammals and older, larger and predatory fish may contain higher amounts of mercury than other types of fish. Limit these types of fish to reduce the consumption of mercury.

Eating a variety of fish that are mostly low in mercury has benefits that increase heart health as well as overall well-being. The risks of consuming small amounts of mercury are outweighed by the health benefits. You can reduce the mercury content in fish by removing the skin and external fat before cooking.

To ensure a delicious, safe end product when cooking fish, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking it to the appropriate temperature of 145 F. Other tips for seasoning and cooking fish include baking or grilling it instead of frying for a lower-fat meal. Using spices and herbs instead of salt adds flavor without adding sodium.

Fish is an excellent part of any diet and is heart-healthy. Try a new fish recipe or get creative with recipes that you already have to incorporate more fish into the diet.

Check out the “Nourishing Boomers and Beyond” website at www.ndsu.edu/boomers for more information about staying healthy. It includes a free monthly newsletter and online educational resources.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your heart health, the Extension Service can help. The Mercer County Extension Service is holding a class at 3 p.m. on February 24, at the Beulah Civic Center. This class is part of NDSU Extension’s Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program. Please call 873-5195 to register for the class.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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