Omega-3 fatty acids are essential. Omega-3s help control blood clotting and build cell membranes in the brain. Since our bodies don’t produce them, we need to get them from food. They’re found in fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna. They are also found in canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts. (This is just another good reason to include both nuts and fish as part of a heart-healthy DASH diet.)
Omega-3 fatty acids also have been shown to decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) and may decrease triglyceride levels (a fat in the bloodstream).
- Eat fish each week. Your goal is to include at least two servings (3-5 ounces = one serving) of fish per week. Choose baked or grilled fish for the most part.
- Mercury. Mercury can be a concern for children or pregnant women, but the types of fish high in mercury are few. Fish such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel have the highest levels of mercury. Consuming other types of fish like canned tuna, salmon, shrimp, catfish and lake fish two to three times a week is not a concern. The benefits of eating fish outweigh any risk at older ages (middle aged or older men, and post-menopausal women).
- Variety. Include a variety of fish in your diet. In general, variety is a key goal with all food groups. While research may often “suggest” that a component of a particular food is beneficial or important to health, we often do not know exactly which component is responsible for the benefit. By providing yourself a variety of vegetables, oils, fish, nuts, etc, you are assuring yourself key nutrients and components for good health.
The great thing about fish is that it is so easy and quick to prepare. You can have dinner on the table in thirty minutes. Any fish can simply be popped into a baking dish coated with vegetable spray or a bit of olive oil and baked for 15-30 minutes, depending on the thickness (thicker “steak” cuts of fish take longer than thin fillets). Drizzle olive oil and some salt-free herbs or breadcrumbs on top and then bake or grill. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto it when serving. You can also place fish into a baking dish, add about 4 ounces of orange juice, top with a fruit salsa or minced red onions, and bake. Check out the easy recipes in our books and add some omega-3 fatty acids to your weekly diet!