Home > Heart-Healthy Eating: Fish
As part of a healthy diet, eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain
omega-3 fatty acids, are best. These fish include salmon,
mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is not just for people who have existing health problems. It is good for all healthy adults and children older than age 2. Learning heart-healthy eating habits now can help prevent problems in years to come. Eating a heart-healthy diet can help you to:
Eating fish may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease.
In people who have heart problems, omega-3 fatty acids may help lower
their risk of death.
Omega-3 fatty acids also lower the risk of sudden cardiac death and
Try to eat omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fish.
Eating more than two servings of fish a week may lower your risk for stroke or TIA. Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and herring) may lower your risk more than other types of fish.footnote 1
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that women who may become
pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should not eat shark, swordfish,
king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, or tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, because these fish have higher mercury
concentrations. But for middle-aged and older people, the protection fish offer
the heart outweighs the risks of eating these fish. Eating a variety of fish
may reduce the amount of mercury you eat.footnote 2
Sometimes people who don't eat fish take fish oil supplements. Some doctors think fish oil might help the heart because it has the omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish. But other doctors don't recommend these supplements to help the heart. That's because research has not proved that fish oil is helpful for the heart.
If you don't eat fish, you can get omega-3 fats from foods such as omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil.
Most of these foods have a different kind of omega-3 fatty acid (called ALA) than the kinds of omega-3 fatty acids you get from eating oily fish (called DHA and EPA). There is not enough good research about whether foods with ALA help the heart.
Chowdhury R, et al. (2012). Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online October 30, 2012 (doi:10.1136/bmj.e6698).
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2017). Eating fish: What pregnant women and parents should know. U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm393070.htm. Accessed April 3, 2017.
Other Works Consulted
Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerColleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered DietitianKathleen M. Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine
Current as ofOctober 5, 2017
Current as of:
October 5, 2017
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Colleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian & Kathleen M. Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine
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