Go Fish! Get More of the Good Fat

Updated:Nov 20,2014

slice of raw salmonFish is one of the most important foods for good heart health – and nearly everyone should eat it more often.

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3.5 oz. servings of fish per week, particularly oily fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon, since they contain the highest amounts of omega-3. A serving is 3.5 ounces or ¾ cup. (for reference, a deck of cards is about 3 ounces.) But if you are like most Americans, you probably aren’t eating that recommended amount.

The Good Fat

Fish is an important part of a balanced diet because it is packed with protein, is often lower in saturated fat compared to other animal proteins like meat, and it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is one of the “good fats.” Scientific evidence shows that eating fish is associated with reduced cardiovascular risks and increased good health. 

A concern about fish and seafood is mercury contamination, mostly in large predatory fish. Small fish consume pollutants that become more concentrated as those fish are eaten by the larger fish. Young children and women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or nursing— should avoid eating potentially contaminated fish like shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and red snapper. They should also limit their consumption of tuna to one serving a week.

Which is healthier—farmed or wild fish?

Some farmed fish can have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid than wild fish, and vice versa. The omega-3 fatty acid content of wild fish can vary by the temperature of their environment, while the omega-3 fatty acid content of farmed fish can vary based on what they are fed.

Which is better—can or frozen?

Canned and packaged fish is a great convenience food. It’s always a good idea to stock some in your pantry. Buy tuna and salmon packed in water, not oil. You’re going to save time if you buy skinless, boneless salmon, which comes in cans and pouches. You’ll save money if you buy canned salmon that still has the skin and bones with it, but you’ll also have to remove them. It’s messy, but not difficult. The bones are in the center and you can take them out in one piece.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy it more often, even if you aren’t a big fish fan:

  • Best Bargains – Eating good fish doesn’t have to be expensive! If you live near a fish market, look for the daily special on sale. At the grocery store, visit the freezer section for frozen fillets. Most fish is flash frozen on the boat, minutes after being caught, which helps keep in stay fresh. Canned fish like tuna, salmon and sardines are also budget friendly choices; choose no added salt or low sodium options.
  • Start Mild – Choose mild white fish like flounder, tilapia or cod. Chop up fresh herbs and garlic; sprinkle on fish with olive oil and pan fry or bake until it flakes easily with a fork.
  • Have Your Cake – Instead of a crab cake, form a patty with chunks of cooked salmon or cod, cooked grated potatoes, chopped onions and fresh dill for a delicious change from a hamburger. Canned tuna or salmon work well in this type of recipe, too.
  • Bread and Bake – If you don’t like the texture of fish, try different coatings like crushed corn flakes, breadcrumbs or crushed unsalted nuts. First, dip strips or cubes of fish in whole-wheat flour, then egg whites and lastly, in your favorite breading. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  • Go Ethnic – Think about your favorite cuisines for ideas on how to flavor fish. Try Italian ingredients like no added salt chunky tomato sauce or go Mexican and make fish tacos with spicy salsa. Try a low sodium teriyaki or soy sauce for a Japanese twist.

Article copyright © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.