Share

Keeping Our Hearts Healthy with Fish

Posted: March 10, 2017

When we think of heart health, we think of reducing sodium, eating less saturated fats, and exercising more. But do we ever think of eating more fish? If not, consider adding this important food to your menu!
Salmon with Soy Honey & Wasabi Sauce by Maggie on flickr.com CC By 2.0

Salmon with Soy Honey & Wasabi Sauce by Maggie on flickr.com CC By 2.0

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women; 1 in 4 Americans die of heart disease each year. Eating fish can be a heart-healthy habit to acquire!

Why eat fish? Compared to meat and poultry, fish is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Fish provides essential nutrients like protein, iron, and Vitamin B12. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy fats that we must obtain from our diets since our bodies cannot produce them. Walnuts and flax-seed oil are examples of plant-based sources of omega-3s, but the omega-3s from these sources are not absorbed as well as those from fish. Research indicates omega-3s in fish may reduce inflammation, decrease the risk of blood clots, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce irregular heartbeats, decreasing the risk for a stroke or heart attack. It is believed that the omega-3s found in fish may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and help to prevent memory loss.

The fish richest in omega-3s are salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, and tuna. In general, Americans should aim to eat two servings of these fish each week to get enough omega-3s. Shrimp, tilapia, and catfish also contain omega-3s, but in lower amounts. You can continue eating the fish you normally cook, but make sure you are adding a variety of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet as well.

So how much fish should you eat? Someone following a 2,000-calorie diet should aim to eat 8 ounces of fish each week. For an adult, a serving size of fish is 4 ounces. For comparison, the size of a woman’s palm is about 3 ounces. A serving size for a child is 2 ounces. Children should eat 2 to 4 ounces of fish per week. Women who are pregnant or nursing need about 8 to 12 ounces of fish each week. Fish is safe for children and women who are pregnant or nursing if the fish is low in mercury. The FDA recommends if you are pregnant or nursing, avoid eating the following as they are high in mercury: king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tilefish, marlin, orange roughy, and tuna unless it is skipjack or light tuna. The best choices for a woman who is pregnant or nursing and children are anchovies, herring, lake whitefish, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, and shad as these fish are low in mercury and high in omega-3s.

Learning to cook fish to make it taste good can be challenging, so it is important to try different fish varieties, cooking methods, and seasonings to get an idea of what you like. Before going into the kitchen have a game plan and know which type of fish you will cook, how you will cook it, and how you will enhance its flavor. You may need to eat fish a few times before you train your taste buds to like it. Remember that all fish are different, so if you do not like tuna salad or baked salmon, then you may like fish tacos. To get the most health benefits out of the fish you are eating, use the following tips:

  • Bake, broil, grill, poach, or steam fish instead of frying it.
  • Bread the fish with panko or cornflakes and bake it to get a crispy texture.
  • Use herb and spice rubs or lemon juice to enhance flavor instead of butter and sauces.
  • Get creative and add fish in place of meat or poultry to increase omega-3 intake.

Here is a recipe for tuna burgers, but you can easily substitute canned salmon.

Tuna Burgers

Makes 6 servings
Serving size: 1 patty

Ingredients:

  • 2 (4.5-ounce) cans low-sodium tuna (skipjack or light) or canned salmon
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup non-fat ranch salad dressing
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Drain tuna, separate into flakes using a fork.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine tuna, ½ cup bread crumbs, cheese, egg, salad dressing, and onion.
  3. Form six patties; coat each side with remaining ½ cup bread crumbs.
  4. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray; heat to medium heat.
  5. Cook patties 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Nutrition Information Per Serving (1 patty): 230 Calories, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 4g, Protein 17g, Total Carbohydrate 20g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sodium 430mg. Good source of calcium and iron. Adapted from Penn State Extension’s Cooking with Nutrition Links recipe book.

References:

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. (2015a). About Seafood. Key elements of healthy eating patterns.
  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. (2015b). Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern. USDA food patterns. 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Heart Disease Facts. Heart disease. 
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Eating fish. Foodborne illness and contaminants.

This news article was written by Megan Wall a Cedar Crest College Dietetic Intern completing her community rotation with Penn State Extension.

Contact Information

slm25@psu.edu