People who eat at least two servings a week of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna should keep it up. Doctors still say it’s a good way to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A new scientific advisory from the American Heart Association stresses the benefits of eating two 3.5-ounce servings a week of fish, especially oily varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and recommends against fried fish. (Studies have found that when the same fish is fried compared to grilled or baked in the oven, the beneficial effect disappears.)
Previous research has linked omega-3 fatty acids to a lowered risk of abnormal heartbeats, less fat (triglycerides) in the blood, reduced risk of artery-clogging plaque and slightly lower blood pressure.
In the scientific advisory, the authors note that eating at least two weekly servings of fish - especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids - can help lower the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest and the most common type of stroke.
What about mercury in fish?
The authors also addressed one factor that has steered some people away from eating fish – fears about mercury contamination. Mercury is found in most seafood but is most concentrated in large fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, bigeye tuna, marlin and orange roughy.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid these varieties of fish because of links to serious neurological problems in babies.
But the advisory noted that mercury contamination does not increase the risk of heart disease in adults and that the benefits of eating fish outweigh any risks associated with mercury, especially when people eat a wide variety of seafood.
Keep in mind, fish is only one part of a healthy diet. For optimal heart health, people should exercise regularly and follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a Mediterranean-style diet, the doctors recommended. Both diets emphasize cooking with unsaturated fats, eating nuts, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and poultry, and limiting red meat and added sugars and salt.
Ideally, people should add fish to their diet by consuming less red meat.
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