When it comes to eating fish, nutrition experts say you’re best off eating it twice a week.
According to a recent report by the American Heart Association published in Circulation on Thursday, eating fish twice a week is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. Health Canada also recommends at least two servings of non-fried fish per week.
“We looked at several more cardiovascular disease-related endpoints [related to seafood consumption], including congestive heart failure, stroke, and hypertension,” professor Eric B. Rimm of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston said in a statement. “Also there is substantially more evidence now pointing to seafood intake and lower risk of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death — especially when the seafood replaces less healthy main dishes such as beef or pork.”
And many, including registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Shahzadi Devje, agree that evidence shows eating fish rich in omega-3 fats is good for your heart.
“The omega-3 fats protect your heart by keeping your blood vessels healthy, reducing inflammation as well as lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels,” she tells Global News. “Besides the omega-3 benefits, one could argue that those who regularly consume fish may eat less of the foods that aren’t so good for them, like ultra-processed foods [or] red meat.”
Health benefits of fish
She adds research has shown those who regularly eat fish may also have a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, some types of cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.
“There’s also a higher demand for omega-3 fats during pregnancy and eating fish is thought to support the development of your baby’s brain and tissues. We’re seeing some very interesting developments in regards to fish oil’s role in mental disorders and mental health.”
Registered dietitian Anar Allidina says fatty fish have eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and our bodies require omega-3 fats which we can only get from diet or supplements. “EPA and DHA make the blood less likely to clot, reduce elevated blood triglycerides (fats), protect the lining of brain cells and fights inflammation,” she says.
She also adds, however, not all fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. “Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, anchovies, Arctic char, herring, mackerel and sardines are great sources. Canned tuna is an OK source, while tilapia, sole, cod, pollock (fish sticks), scallops and shrimp are low in omega-3 fatty acids.”
Something fishy about fish?
There has been a lot of discussion around mercury intake and eating fish, she says. “Larger fish can absorb mercury in their muscles from the surrounding water but mostly from smaller fish that they eat.” Health Canada notes fish high in mercury include fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy and escolar.
“It’s best to limit these sources.”
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Devje adds consumers should also be aware of sustainable fishing and how they are buying their fish.
“I encourage my clients to make the smart choice and purchase products with the blue fish label, which means that they meet the Marine Stewardship Council’s standards and are independently certified as sustainable and traceable,” she continues. “You can rest assured that it’s wild, sustainable, free of seafood fraud and can be traced back to the certified fishermen that caught it. The blue fish label can be found on frozen and canned fish at grocery stores across the country.”
Best ways to eat fish
And when it comes to cooking and eating fish, both experts say people tend to avoid it because it’s “expensive,” “hard” or “smelly.”
“Fish can seem intimidating because it’s delicate and you can easily overcook it. When it comes to cooking fish, less is more; you don’t need to go heavy with sauces or a complicated and long ingredients list,” Devje says.
Allidina adds if the smell bothers you, try grilling. “Try grilling salmon on the BBQ this summer or try this salmon recipe which is made from canned salmon.”
Below, Devje shares some of her favourite fish meal ideas:
1. Give your tacos a makeover by adding fish and top with mango, onion, cabbage and avocado.
2. Pouched salmon steaks are simple and easy to pull together in 15 minutes. Simply pouch salmon with olive oil, your favourite herbs (dill works well), seasoning and lemon.
3. Tuna sliders are a great alternative to beef burgers. Fold tinned tuna in a mixture of onions, oats, spices, lemon and seasoning to create a kid and budget-friendly meal.
4. A sheet-pan fish dinner is super-simple and perfect for when you’re strapped for time. Just coat your fatty fish (like mackerel) with your favourite herbs, spices and lemon and throw in a rainbow of seasonal vegetables (peppers, asparagus, sweet potato) and bake at 400˚F for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Simply add sardines as a pizza topping to keep things simple and delicious.
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