Fish is a wonderful combination of protein without all of the saturated fat and cholesterol found in some types of meat. White, flaky fish is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein and fatty fish (think salmon) are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Since the human body can’t make it’s own omega-3’s, fish are an important part of the diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are getting a lot of attention these days. Not only are they good for your heart but also for your joints, your skin and brain function. Here are some examples of what they can do for you!
Why are omega-3s good for your health?
- Help maintain cardiovascular health by playing a role in the regulation of blood clotting and vessel constriction
- Are important for prenatal and postnatal neurological development
- May reduce tissue inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- May play a beneficial role in cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- May help reduce depression and slow mental decline in older people
The omega-3s found in fish (EPA and DHA) appear to provide the greatest health benefits. Fish that are high in omega-3s, low in environmental contaminants and eco-friendly include:
- Wild salmon from Alaska (fresh, frozen and canned)
- Arctic char
- Atlantic mackerel
- Farmed oysters
- Farmed rainbow trout
- Albacore tuna from the U.S. and Canada
Because of all it can do for you, try to eat 2-3 servings (6-9 ounces) of fatty fish per week. For pregnant or lactating women, limit total fish consumption to no more than 12 ounces per week and stay away from swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tile fish (most everyone should avoid these) and limit canned tuna fish to no more than 1 can per week.
Other sources of omega-3’s are flaxseed, walnuts, wheat germ and soy products. The type of omega-3’s in these foods (ARA, as opposed to DHA and EPA in fish) do not seem to provide as much of a health benefit as those found in fish. For this reason, if you don’t like fish, it may be beneficial to take a fish oil supplement. You need to be careful when purchasing supplements because contaminants such as PCBs accumulate in fish oil just as they do in fish so make sure to buy those made with purified fish oil. There are now fish oil supplements approved by the FDA, which will be the safest (since other supplements are not regulated). Also, to avoid “fish burps”, look for enteric coated capsules. This will allow the pill to survive the digestive juices in the stomach and will break down only in the small intestine where it is absorbed. Talk to your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement because it can thin your blood and possibly interact with other medications.