Nutrition-wise blog

Fish and heart health

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. June 1, 2011

A new study has again confirmed that fish is heart-healthy. So what's new about that? This study looked at how often fish was consumed, the types of fish and even how it was prepared. Data were collected from food questionnaires completed by 84,000 postmenopausal women. Here's what the study found:

  • Frequency. Women who ate five or more servings of baked or broiled fish a week had a 30 percent lower risk of developing heart failure, compared with women who rarely or never ate fish.
  • Preparation. Eating even one serving of fried fish a week was linked to a 48 percent higher risk of heart failure. Frying fish increases trans fats, which researchers speculate may contribute to an increase in risk for heart disease. Low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, grilling, poaching and steaming, don't produce this effect.
  • Types of fish. Eating baked or broiled dark fish, such as salmon, mackerel and bluefish, was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of heart failure. That was not true for tuna and white fish, such as sole, snapper and cod.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers also looked at omega-3 intake from sources, such as fish oil supplements, vegetable oil and other plant products. They found no association between these omega-3 sources and heart failure risk. This suggests that whole fish — not just omega-3 — provided the protection from heart failure.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend increasing the amount and variety of seafood in your diet by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry. So, up your intake of fish — especially salmon, mackerel and bluefish. Here are a few low-fat recipes to get you started. Share your favorites too.

  • Salmon — Brush with maple syrup and grill. Top with zest of lime or lemon.
  • Mackerel — Brush with a little olive oil and season with lemon pepper, then broil.
  • Bluefish — Brush with mustard and bake.

- Jennifer

June 01, 2011