Monmouth/Ocean Counties, NJ -- One of the best ways to protect your heart is to maintain a healthy diet, according to the Barnabas Health Heart Centers at Community and Monmouth Medical Centers and Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus. While fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be at the top of your list, be sure to add fish to your diet, too.

Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids – a polyunsaturated fat that helps fight off heart-related diseases, including heart disease, heart attack, arrhythmias and stroke.  

Fatty Fish

Unlike meat, fish is not high in saturated fat and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

The American Heart Association recommends eating 3.5 ounces of fish at least two times a week. Fish with the highest omega-3 content includes:

·         Salmon

·         Mackerel

·         Herring

·         Lake trout

·         Sardines

·         Albacore tuna

Fatty fish contain two types of omega-3s, EPA and DHA, which directly benefit the heart by improving cell function and regulating cardiovascular function. It also reduces inflammation, which is the cause of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. 

Depending on a person’s stage of life, some types of fish, such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish, should be avoided because they contain high levels of mercury. If you want to up your intake of fish but lower your chances of ingesting mercury, the best options are canned light tuna, salmon, and catfish.

Help your Heart

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat – a dietary fat that builds brain cells and lowers your bad cholesterol. These types of fat are important because they keep your heart healthy in many different ways, including:

·         Reducing triglycerides

·         Reducing the risk of arrhythmias

·         Slowing plaque buildup in your arteries

·         Slightly lowering your blood pressure

All of the benefits from omega-3s help lower the risk of heart-related diseases such as stroke and heart disease.

Plant-based Options and Supplements

If you don’t enjoy fish, there are plant-based sources of omega-3s, including ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, canola oil, soy oil, soybeans and tofu. Different from fish, these plant-based products contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega-3s, which still benefit your heart, but not as directly as the omega-3s in fatty fish.

Even though food is the preferable way to consume omega-3 fatty acids, there are capsules and supplements. These are suggested for people who have heart disease or high triglyceride levels, making it difficult to ingest enough of the fatty acid. Talk to your health care provider to determine if supplements are right for you.