While we’re on the subject of the heart-healthy diet for American Heart Month… Many people assume they should take an omega-3 or fish oil supplement to protect their heart, but a number of recent research studies on this topic aren’t so clear. Many people wonder if it’s worth taking omega-3 supplements for heart health.
Interestingly, one very large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that omega-3 supplements had no significant effect on preventing heart attacks or strokes in study participants. So does this mean you should scrap the omega-3 supplements and stop eating fish?
Not so fast! – First, it’s important to understand that not all omega-3s are created equal. Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated (healthy and essential) fat that comes from either plant sources like flaxseed oil, chia seeds, or walnuts, or from cold-water fish. While both forms have been shown to have benefits in various studies, the marine sources of omega-3 offer far more potent health benefits overall.
And although there have been studies like the one mentioned above, there is also much research that finds fish oil very beneficial for the heart, brain, joints, depression, cancer, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, etc, etc. For heart disease, fish oil has definitely been shown to reduce triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammation throughout the body. It also helps prevent excess blood clotting and irregular heartbeat.
It’s just not completely clear if it’s as effective in people who already have heart disease, or if taking a pill works as well as eating fish.
So I still think it’s helpful to get a good dose of omega-3 each week, BUT – I always recommend getting it from fish first, supplemented with a few servings of nuts and seeds.
Oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and bluefish have the highest amounts of omega-3 fats, but all fish – even shellfish like shrimp and scallops have some. Here’s a list of the omega-3 fat content in commonly consumed seafood. In addition to their heart-healthy fat, seafood is also very low in artery-clogging saturated fat, and it provides a great source of lean protein. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings of seafood each week for a total of 6-8 oz/week.
I’ve met many people who don’t like salmon or other fatty fish, and they are afraid to eat shrimp or other shellfish because they have cholesterol. It’s true that shellfish have cholesterol, but it’s saturated (bad) fat, far more than dietary cholesterol that will raise your cholesterol. Like all other seafood, shrimp, scallops, and other shellfish are extremely low in saturated fat– so feel free to enjoy them! Just don’t fry, and skip the butter, as both are extremely high in saturated fat.
If you need a quick and easy recipe for almost any fish – try one of my favorite super-easy glaze recipes for grilled or or roasted fish.
Sriracha Honey Glazed Salmon
- 8 ounces salmon fillet
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Preheat the grill to 400 degrees and spray the grill grates
- In a small bowl, combine the sriracha sauce and honey. Stir well to combine.
- Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Place the salmon on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. When the salmon is almost cooked through, brush it with the glaze. Finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes until the salmon is opaque and flakes easily.
- Remove the salmon from the grill, sprinkle sesame seeds over the glaze, and serve.