Take a look at your local grocer's fish counter, and there is always quite a bit to choose from. Depending on the market or the butcher shop, you might find a dizzying array of seafood and fish to choose from at any given time. How do you choose a fish that is both flavorful and healthy? Which is the best heart-healthy fish? Which are the least?
Whether you're brand new on the journey to eating healthier or need a refresher, we're happy to explore the best heart-healthy fish for all.
The American Heart Association
The AHA tells us that eating at the very least 3.5-ounce servings of fish per week can help protect against heart disease and heart attacks. Unfortunately, not all fish are healthy for you. Certain kinds of carnivorous fish or long-lived fish can significantly affect whether they are beneficial or harmful to you.
Research has shown that some of the fish marked as heart-healthy may, in turn, not be healthy at all. Some fish may contain high levels of methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), harmful environmental chemicals, and dioxins. If in the fish you eat, these contaminants can completely negate fish's heart health benefits and even increase cancer risk.
So it isn't as easy as picking a fish from a list and eat it. It should be all about knowing how to choose, finding the source of your fish, and then eating the right fish for heart health.
Fish to Be Cautious Of
According to the EPA and FDA, children, women who are pregnant or nursing, women of child-bearing age should avoid eating the fish listed below. However, a review published in 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that such seafood high in mercury could also be dangerous for the adult heart.
A general rule of thumb to remember is that the larger the particular seafood species is and the longer the specifies lives, the higher the species' mercury levels may be.1 This is because of two things:
- Larger fish consume more food, and in turn, consume more mercury.
- Longer-living species consume more food than the shorter lives species, one again consuming more mercury.
By no means is this list of fish that usually has high mercury content exhaustive, but it is a decent reference point.
- King Mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Big Eye Tuna
As another general rule, if you can't be sure of the source of your fish when at the market, the younger the fish, the better. And if that fish is also vegetarian, not a predatory fish, even better are the chances for it to be very low in contaminants.
Best Heart-Healthy Picks: High in Omega 3s, Low in Mercury, and Low in PCBs
Some of the best heart-healthy fish to eat these days are farm-raised and farm caught, and considered fatty fish, packed with omega-3s. What's considered a fatty fish?
- Fattier fish has more than 5% fat.
- Fatty seafood has the highest omega 3s firmer in texture, holds a richer flavor, and usually a deeper color.
The seafood that is most packed with Omega 3s to help with heart health are:
- Sablefish/Black Cod
- Sea Bass
- Salmon (Atlantic, Chinook, or Coho)
- Bluefin Tuna
What are Omega 3s, and what do they do anyway?
Omega 3 fatty acids2 are a type of unsaturated fatty acids, unlike saturated fats that may be linked to raised blood lipids, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, and other heart-disease risk factors such as inflammation.
Omega 3s have been linked to reducing inflammation throughout the body, providing relief not just for those with arthritis but also for reducing inflammation that may damage your blood vessels, which can further lead to heart disease or strokes. Omega 3 acids could be promoting better heart health by:
- Decreasing triglycerides ( a type of fat (lipids) found in your blood.)
- Slightly lowering blood pressure
- Many studies have shown evidence that omega 3s play essential roles in the body as a component of the phospholipids—a form of the structures that make up a cell membrane.
- It can help reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest caused by an abnormal heart rhythm.
- Reduce the risk of blood clots, as omega 3 fatty acids help prevent blood platelets from clumping together.
- Omega 3s provide energy for the body and are then used to form eicosanoids.
- Eicosanoids are involved in the process of the dilation of blood vessels which helps decrease blood pressure.
- Eicosanoids play a vital role in the initiation and resolution of immune system responses to infection and injury.
- Our bodies can only form carbon-carbon double bonds after the 9th carbon from the methyl end of a fatty acid. In simpler terms? Our bodies need omega 3s, but our bodies are unable to create them on their own. This essential fat is required to survive, so we must get the omega 3 fatty acids we need from the foods we eat in our diet.
Are there other foods that offer the same heart-healthy benefits, or can I take omega 3 supplements?
At the moment, eating fish and seafood rich in omega 3 fatty acids appears to be the best means to provide your body with heart-healthy benefits, far overtaking any omega 3 supplements in your diet. If you are allergic to fish or seafood or have difficulties with its texture and flavor, there are a few nonfish food options you might want to include that have some omega 3s (but keep in mind, they are not as rich in them as fish and seafood. )
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Soybeans, products made from soy, soybean oil
- Chia seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
- Cereals, pasta, dairy, and other food products fortified with omega 3s
However, please take note, similar to supplements, there is less conclusive evidence of heart-healthy benefits from eating these foods than from eating fish.
At Wholey, we are not just passionate about the products we provide and are dedicated to excellent customer service. We're passionate about the nourishment and science behind the food we eat and the sources we acquire them from. If you're ready to add these heart-healthy fishes, such as herring, mussels, oysters, sea bass, salmon, sardines, and more, we'll have everything you need, ready to be shipped to your door. Call us or contact us at any time with questions about our extensive fish and seafood stock to get you started on your heart-healthy path today.
1: Ecosystem approaches to mercury and human health: A way toward the future: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-020-01455-0
2: Omega 3 fatty acids: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/