Omega 3 fatty acids have long been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. They are a type of unsaturated fatty acid, found most commonly in fish.
When a diet high in saturated fatty acids, such as those in meat, is substituted for unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in fish, we see several benefits in the cardio vascular system. Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats. Eating at least one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death. Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce inflammation, which is associated with damage to blood vessels and, if left unchecked, may lead to heart disease and strokes.
Which types of fish are most beneficial?
Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Not all types of fish are equal
Fish that do not contain as high levels of omega 3 and those which contain higher levels of unhealthy fatty acids are not as beneficial for heart health, examples include tilapia and catfish. Also pay attention to where your fish comes from- fish from countries known for their bad pollution is not a good idea. Some fish are also higher in dangerous toxins, for example mercury is found in higher concentrations in larger predatory fish, such as swordfish. Farmed fish may contain antibiotics and other chemicals so pay careful attention where you source your fish from. In addition, fish is not be that healthy if it is prepared in an unhealthy way, for example fried fish opposed to steamed or baked fish.
How much fish should you eat?
For adults, at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish a week are recommended. A serving size is about 100 grams, or about the size of a deck of cards. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and young children should limit the amount of fish they eat because they’re most susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish.
Are there other options if I dislike fish?
Researchers are divided as to the health benefits of taking omega-3 supplements, however, they are an option if for any reason foods high in omega-3’s cannot be included in the diet. Good non-fish sources of omega-3’ oils include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil. Bear in mind the evidence of heart-health benefits from eating these foods isn’t as strong as it is from eating fish.
Senior Practitioner- Phillip Bayer- Psoriasis Eczema Clinic