February is American Heart Month and a time to reflect on ways to keep our hearts healthy. After all, when we treat it well, the heart dutifully beats 100,000 times a day without complaining.
While many of us are trying to do a decent job of going light on fatty meat and dairy products and boosting our consumption of vegetables and fiber, adding more fish to our diets would be a beneficial move.
A great source of protein, fish is low in saturated fat and replaces less healthful forms of protein such as red meat. Fish can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids – which benefit heart health – in healthy people and among those at risk of developing, or who are living with, cardiovascular disease.
Heart researchers say these fatty acids may decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of plaque in your arteries and reduce your risk of stroke. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (especially fatty fish) at least twice a week. A serving is 3.5 ounces cooked, or three-quarters of a cup flaked.
Selecting fish can be tricky. Some fish contains mercury, PCBs, dioxins or other contaminants. The FDA recommends children and pregnant women avoid eating fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury contamination (namely shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish). They may eat up to 12 ounces per week of a variety of fish and shellfish lower in mercury (canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish). If you eat fish from local lakes and rivers, check out the Indiana Department of Health’s Fish Consumption Advisory fact sheet.
As the demand for seafood increases worldwide, consider sustainable choices – fish caught or farmed using environmentally friendly practices in ways that do not deplete the species. Many populations of large fish we consume today are overfished. In the United States, we import more than 80 percent of the fish sold to meet demand. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide lists best choices, good alternatives and those to avoid. The Seafood Watch app also might be helpful when you are grocery shopping.
Enjoy the heart-healthy benefits of seafood. Drop me a line to let me know what savvy choices you make. Here’s to fishing for good health!