Our world is being increasingly filled with health issues and threats that are affecting our quality of life. Of these significant medical concerns is heart disease – about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year, which are staggering figures. On a positive note, there are plenty of lifestyle changes that can be made to lessen the degree of heart disease, including increasing your intake of healthy fish on a regular basis.
In fact, eating two servings of healthy fish per week can cut your risk of heart disease by at least a third.
Although not a new finding, doctors and other health care practitioners continue to get the word out there of the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the fight against heart disease and other health-related issues. The American Heart Association has known for decades of the incredible benefits that omega-3′s have on one’s health, which are found in abundance in many types of fish.
Why Fish Rich in Omega-3′s Are Good For the Heart
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that has been shown to lower inflammation in the body. Since inflammation damages blood vessels which can lead to heart disease, decreasing such inflammation can have a positive affect on one’s health.
Omega-3′s found in many types of fish can lower blood pressure, decrease triglycerides, minimize blood clotting and boost immunity, which can all lead to a much lower chance of heart disease and other conditions. In particular, sudden cardiac death appears to be a heart disease-related occurrence that is influenced the most.
Types of Fish to Focus On For the Greatest Heart Benefits
Not all fish contain the same level of omega-3 fatty acids. The fish in highest abundance of this heart-healthy fatty acid includes salmon, herring and tuna. Although these types of fish provide the greatest levels of this ingredient, many other types of seafood also contain it to some extent. Fatty saltwater fish tends to have higher levels, while most freshwater fish contains less.
But not all fish is as heart healthy as salmon and herring. Certain fish simply contain high levels of unhealthy fatty acids, and are best avoided. Such fish includes tilapia and catfish. Other fish that are produced on farms are also considered to be unhealthy as well due to the higher incidence of pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals added to the fish, which can have harmful effects on one’s health. Wild-caught fish is definitely the healthiest type of fish to eat.
In addition to the type of fish being consumed, the way the fish is prepared and cooked also makes a huge difference on their health. For example, though salmon has among the highest amounts of omega-3′s, if it is fried, it can actually have the reverse effect on one’s health simply because frying in oil is considered a heart health risk. Instead, broil or bake the fish so that all the nutrients within the fish are kept intact without adding carcinogenic fried oils into the mix.
In order to reap the greatest benefits of omega-3′s contained in fish, it is recommended that at least one or two servings of fish be consumed every week. One serving size is approximately 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards.
What About Mercury Content in Fish?
Some people may be hesitant to fill their diet with omega-3-rich fish due to concerns over mercury content. However, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on the body far outweigh any risks that small traces of mercury can have. In addition to mercury, people may also be concerned about other toxins, including dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These toxins really depend on where the fish was caught, as well as the type of fish being consumed.
Larger fish breeds tend to have more mercury in their bodies than smaller fish. Basically, the higher up the fish is on the food chain, the higher the tendency for them to contain more mercury and other toxins. In addition, the longer the fish lives, the more mercury they potentially can accumulate.
To counter this, pay special attention to the kind of fish you buy, how much of it you consume, and state advisories regarding the toxin levels in certain types of fish.
At the end of the day, omega-3 fatty acids have a tremendous effect on heart health. Consuming them in recommended amounts on a weekly basis – from healthy and safe fish sources – can make a significant difference in your heart health and overall wellness.