Two Servings of Fish a Week Aid Heart Health

Helping yourself with a healthy diet can be one step toward taking control of your health at home. But sometimes, it can be hard to know what to choose to protect yourself the most. New research can help guide us. A recent study has found that two six-ounce servings of oily fish per week can help high-risk people avoid cardiovascular events like stroke or heart attack. Oily fish are ones like salmon and tuna.

Eating at least two servings of fish each week appears to lower your risk of future cardiovascular events and death if you have preexisting cardiovascular disease,” said lead researcher Andrew Mente, an associate professor of health research methods, evidence and impact at McMaster Univ. “If you’re generally healthy, there’s no clear protection, although fish is probably a safe choice for them as well.”

The protection of fish is seen mainly for fish that contain high amounts of omega-3 fats, or so-called oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, sable, salmon, tuna [steak or canned] and sardines. Other types of fish that contain low amounts of omega-3 fats are generally neutral,” he said.

The researchers worked with information from 192,000 people on five continents, 52,000 of whom had heart disease. That gave them a large amount of data to work with, so they could get a clear picture. However, it could be that oily fish are cooked in ways that are similar to each other, and that is why they give people this benefit — it’s not the fish but the cooking style. Even if that is the case, you are still more likely to see the protection from this fish rather than from other types.
 
If you aren’t a fan of oily fish, fish, in general, maybe a healthier alternative to processed or red meat. Fish is an excellent form of protein. While only oily fish was shown to have heart benefits, other fish wasn’t shown to be damaging to the heart the way other animal proteins have been.

The benefit was only seen in high-risk people. For folks who without preexisting cardiovascular disease, there did not appear to be any heart benefits to eating oily fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation throughout the body, therefore lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease in [people at] high risk,” said Jerlyn Jones, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you don’t like fish, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in foods like walnuts, Brussels sprouts and chia seeds. You can also find foods that have been fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Just like cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, yogurts are often fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Read the label, and you might find ways to add fatty acids to your diet without adding fish!

Banner image: Taylor Grote via Unsplash
March 17, 2021
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