Most Canadians don’t eat enough fish. On average, we’re about 45 grams shy of Health Canada’s recommended intake of two 75-gram servings per week. So we could be doing more for our hearts.
“One of the biggest problems we have in Western culture is that we have too few omega-3 fatty acids in our diet,” says William Harris, director of metabolism and nutrition research at Sanford Research, University of South Dakota, and a leading expert on fish’s nutritional role. “And the benefits of eating fish—including lower heart disease risk—far outweigh any theoretical cancer risk from contaminants.”
A study in the July 2008 Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the Japanese, who on average eat 100 grams of fish per day, have half as many heart attacks as North Americans. And omega-3-rich plants aren’t the answer. “Sources such as flaxseed oil just aren’t as effective as fatty fish in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease,” says Carol Dombrow, a consulting dietitian for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Two meals of fatty fish a week meet the suggested daily quota of omega-3s (500 milligrams [mg]) that we should be getting, adds Harris.
A diet rich in fish might also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and kidney cancer, and is essential for fetal brain development. Fish is also a great source of protein, low in saturated fat, and high in vitamins and minerals.
With the help of dietitians as well as environmental and fish experts, we have picked five fish that are excellent sources of omega-3s, are low in contaminants, can be fished without depleting the species and are delicious to eat. Frozen fatty fish—a convenient option—provide the same great nutritional value.
And it’s easy to prepare. “Fish cooks so quickly, you’d have to work to make it hard,” says Laura Calder, host of the Food Network’s French Food at Home. “Steaming one piece takes a few minutes, and a whole fish baked in the oven takes less than half an hour.” We asked Calder for easy and tasty ways to prepare our top five fish choices (click through to view them).