If you’ve traveled outside the U.S. you know that fish is a staple of many diets around the world, and for good reason. As a registered dietitian-nutritionist and a fish lover, I encourage my clients to enjoy the heart health benefits of fish. Though some of my clients are concerned with the safety due to the possibility of mercury contamination, the benefits substantially outweigh any risks.
This is great news for everyone aiming for a healthier diet. Fish has been promoted by the American Heart Association (AHA) for 17 years now. The AHA recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of non-fried fish, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish, every week. They emphasize choosing oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna, which are all high in omega-3 fatty acids. Based on scientific studies which have further established the beneficial effects of eating seafood rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish is recommended to replace less healthy meats that are high in artery-clogging saturated fat.
As of March, 2018, new scientific findings affirm the American Heart Association’s recommendation to eat fish – especially those rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – twice a week to help reduce the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest and the most common type of stroke (ischemic).
It was also found that mercury contamination does not have adverse effects on heart disease risk in adults, and the benefits of eating fish substantially outweigh any risks associated with mercury contamination, especially if a variety of seafood is consumed. Mercury is found in most seafood but is prevalent in large fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, bigeye tuna, marlin and orange roughy.
For those who skip fish in favor of fish oil supplements, the news is not as good. Research suggests a lack of scientific evidence that Omega-3 fish oil supplements reduce cardiovascular risk.
As for my regimen, I eat fish or seafood 3-5 times a week and I love adding super foods such as chia seeds and flax seeds to my meals to enhance my Omega 3 intake. For further benefit, I have been taking a fish oil supplement daily for over 20 years and my cholesterol profile is excellent and keeps improving. Since fish is my favorite dish to cook, I’ve included my favorite fish recipe from Clean Eating magazine for you to try. So if fish isn’t your go-to entree of choice, give this recipe a try and see if it might change your mind!
American Heart Association. “Keep saying yes to fish twice a week for heart health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180517081837.htm>.
Moroccan Salmon with Nectarine Couscous
Recipe created by Nancy S. Hughes with Clean Eating Magazine
Photo By: Maya Vishyel
This is my absolute favorite fish recipe! It has a fabulous aromatic blend of spices and it’s so easy to prepare in just 25 minutes. Another good thing about this recipe is it’s hard to mess it up, which is why it’s a great dish to prepare for my guests. The whole-wheat couscous with buttery pine nuts and sweet nectarines completes this delicious, satisfying meal.
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
- 4 4-oz boneless salmon fillets, skin on
- High-heat cooking oil (such as sunflower, safflower, peanut, or grape seed oil), as needed
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat couscous
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 oz pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup diced nectarine
- In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, ginger, cardamom, black pepper and 1/4 tsp salt. Sprinkle evenly on all sides of salmon, pressing mixture into flesh to adhere.
- Heat a grill pan on medium-high and lightly brush with cooking oil. Add salmon, skin side up, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn and cook, skin side down, until salmon is opaque throughout, about 5 more minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and stir in onions, bell pepper, nuts, nectarine and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Divide salmon and couscous mixture among serving plates.
Nutrients per serving (1 salmon fillet and 3/4 cup couscous mixture): Calories: 274, Total Fat: 10 g, Sat. Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g, Omega-3s: 1,970 mg, Omega-6s: 1,570 mg, Carbs: 19 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugars: 2 g, Protein: 26 g, Sodium: 313 mg, Cholesterol: 62 mg