February is Heart Health Month, so it is a great time to think about eating foods that make your heart healthy! Fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, benefit the hearts of both healthy people and those with cardiovascular disease. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish (especially fatty fish) twice a week. This is because fish is high in protein, low in saturated fat, and as stated before, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish baked or broiled instead of fried is important since fried foods may cancel out the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid with three common forms: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid). DHA and EPA are found in fish and seem to have the strongest health benefits. ALA is found in vegetable oils, flaxseed, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. Our bodies do not produce omega-3 fatty acids, so we must get them through our food. Omega 3 fatty acids are also sold as supplements over the counter.
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, including the blood vessels, where inflammation may lead to heart disease. Omega-3’s also decrease the risk of arrythmias, decrease trigylcerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke, and slow the growth of plaque formation in the arteries. They may also improve pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis, decrease depression, decrease dementia, and decrease ADHD.
It is important to note that some fish contain high levels of mercury, PCBs and other environmental contaminants. Fish that are larger and predatory, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish have higher levels of these substances. Fish with lower levels of mercury include sole, shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish. Eat a variety of fish, limiting the amount of predatory fish, to keep your mercury intake low. Pregnant women and children should be especially careful and avoid eating fish high in mercury since there may be adverse affects.
If you find you are not eating the recommended amount of fish each week, omega-3’s are available at http://wywnutrition.com/supplement-essentials/.
Fish is easy to prepare and can be made in a variety of ways, so be sure to get your minimum two servings a week. Your heart will thank you!