Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Fish: Baked, Broiled, or Fried?
Does it matter how you cook your fish?
Fish is a terrific source of lean protein. Cold water fish, especially salmon, provides heart healthy omega-3 fats in abundance. But does a fried fish burger provide the same heart protection as a grilled fillet of wild salmon? Let’s be honest. It would be a stretch to actually believe that a deep-fried battered hunk of seafood slathered in mayonnaise is remotely similar to a pristine cut of fresh fish. Nevertheless, perhaps goaded by their wishful patients, the question tempted the scientists studying the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). Now we have a clear and unequivocal answer: no.
This landmark 10 year (to date) study of tens of thousands of ethnically diverse women aged 50 and up has been a goldmine of information, spinning off numerous important research projects that have advanced our understanding of women’s health. As a sub study, Dr. Rashid Belin and colleagues evaluated detailed dietary information related to fish consumption provided by more than 84,000 of the WHI women.
In line with previous research on fish and heart health, the women who enjoyed five or more servings of baked or broiled fish each week were 30 percent less likely to suffer from heart failure compared to those who never ate fish. The fish that provided the most benefit were what the researchers termed “dark fish,” including salmon, mackerel, and bluefish. Just one serving per week of dark fish lowered heart failure risk substantially.
The biggest news from this study was the discovery that women who habitually had just one or more servings of fried fish each week were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop heart failure over the course of 10 years.
How can you put this news to work for you? First, avoid fried fish. It’s probably okay on an occasional basis, but a weekly fish fry is not kind to your heart. Most importantly, enjoy baked or broiled fish, especially salmon, at least once every week, and preferably more. While I usually caution against king mackerel and bluefish, due to their high mercury content, salmon and North Atlantic and Chub mackerel are considered low mercury fish, and can usually be enjoyed safely.