This We Know for Sure: Eating Fish Benefits Heart Health

Seafood Strongly Associated with Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so it’s critical to use clear and actionable language every chance we get about how people can help keep maintain heart health. One of the foods most strongly associated with reduced heart disease risk is fish.  It is estimated that low seafood intake is responsible for about 84,000 American lives lost to heart disease each year, which makes seafood deficiency the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the U.S. 

The Science on Heart Health & Seafood Is Clear

Here are some examples of language that clearly communicate the rock solid seafood and heart health science:

  • “The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week.  A serving is 3.5 ounce cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. ” – AHA
  • “Twice a week, make seafood—fish and shellfish—the main protein food on your plate. Seafood contains a range of nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fats.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating about 8 ounces per week (less for young children) of a variety of seafood can help prevent heart disease.” – USDA ChooseMyPlate

Why Is Fish So Good for Heart Health?

Researchers believe the unique combination of healthy fats in seafood play a big role in its powerful protection of heart health, but that’s not all seafood has to offer.  Fish, as a whole food, has a lot going on.  Take a look here at all the nutrients in a single filet of salmon, for example:

  • Protein
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

These nutrients and more make seafood such a well-rounded superfood.  As Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Tufts School of Nutrition explains, choosing fish “replaces major contributors of saturated fat, such as hamburgers or a slice of quiche.”

What about Supplements?

Therefore, it’s not entirely surprising that the omega-3 supplement science doesn’t exactly replicate the benefits shown by seafood studies.  But it is surprising that the coverage of the supplement science fails to emphasize the well-established benefits of fish as a whole food.

The lead researcher of a recent supplement study concluded, “Although these two supplements do not prevent atrial fibrillation, recent studies have suggested that lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, and moderating alcohol intake may lower risk of atrial fibrillation…We need to continue to educate the public on ways to lower their risk as well as search for new ways to prevent this condition.”  All good suggestions, and let’s not forget the one that got us looking into fish oil supplements in the first place, fish!

Eat Seafood 2-3 Times Each Week For Heart Health

As scientists sort out the supplement story, people need to know there is a powerful – and delicious – way to unequivocally help their heart health ready and waiting in their fridges, freezers, and pantries right now.