Fish: Powerful Protein To Fuel Good Health

Fish is our best source of the omega-3 fatty acids we need for heart health. There are a lot of fish in the sea—and in our rivers and lakes—so we’ve got tips to help you reel in the safest and most healthful fish choices for your family.

Health experts agree: we need at least two servings of fish each week to get the amount of omega-3 our hearts need. Our rivers and lakes are teaming with fish, and when we consider the ocean’s bounty, our choices become vast. We are here to help—with information about why omega-3 fatty acids are so important and suggestions for the kind of fish that will benefit you most.

Omega-3 fatty acids are so essential to heart health for a variety of reasons:

  • They reduce the risk of blood clots.
  • These fatty acids prevent plaque from forming in arteries.
  • Adequate amounts of omega-3s decrease triglyceride levels in the blood. High triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries.
  • Research shows that they can reduce blood pressure.
  • Omega-3s also slow the production of agents that cause inflammation.

If you are a healthy adult with no history of heart disease, FDA guidelines say that you should eat at least two servings (3 ounces per serving) of fish each week—and can have as many as four servings. People with heart disease may need more—about 1 gram of omega-3s each day—and should talk with their doctor about how much omega-3 fatty acids they need. Too much of any good nutrient isn’t so good, and that’s why we encourage you to stick with the guidelines. Recommendations exist for a reason; research has found that consuming more than 3 grams of omega-3s each day can lead to bleeding.

We’ve listed some of the best fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids and some of the most familiar fish you’ll find in grocery stores and on menus, with the amount of omega-3 fat in a 3-ounce serving:

  • Atlantic mackerel: 2.5 grams of omega-3s
  • Atlantic and farmed salmon: 1.8 grams of omega-3s
  • Herring: 1.7 grams of omega-3s
  • Bluefin tuna: 1.6 grams of omega-3s
  • Lake trout: 1.6 grams of omega-3s
  • Farmed catfish: 1.15 grams of omega-3s
  • Anchovies: 1.4 grams of omega-3s
  • Albacore tuna: 1.3 grams of omega-3s
  • Sardines: 1.3 grams of omega-3s
  • Canned white meat tuna, drained: .5 grams of omega-3s
  • Shrimp: .29 grams of omega-3s

Although the American Heart Association says that the benefits of eating fish outweigh the potential risks, we understand that people are concerned that fish may contain high levels of mercury. One way to mitigate this risk—and keep your meals interesting—is to eat a variety of fish. You may also want to avoid fish known for high mercury levels and choose fish known to be lower in mercury. Older, larger fish present the greatest mercury risk: shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Instead, consider these popular options known to be lower in mercury: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Another way to minimize mercury risks is to remove the skin and surface fat of fish before you cook them.

Fish is a lean protein choice that packs a powerful nutritional punch. We hope these guidelines will inspire you to make fish a delicious mainstay in your family’s meals.

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