Fishing for a Longer Life – What Eating More Fish Can Do for You

By Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, LDN

It’s called the “Eskimo factor.” As early as 1944, scientists began to document that Greenland Eskimos had virtually no heart disease. This phenomenon occurred despite the fact that the Eskimos ate a diet low in fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. But what they did subsist on was a diet loaded with oily seafood such as whale and seal meat, providing them with a huge daily dose of fish oil (about 15 grams), which is rich in the superbly heart-healthy marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Frequent Consumption of Seafood
Benefits Your Heart Health

Eating fish is key to heart health because it is a primary source of the cardio-protective fatty acids known to enhance human health: The twin polyunsaturated, or “long-chain” omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Studies show that people who eat a fish-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and have a greater longevity. Salmon and other seafood is one of the eight key food groups – along with extra virgin olive oil, leafy greens, figs and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, walnuts and flaxseeds, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine – that are part my plan (detailed in “Prevent a Second Heart Attack”) to reverse heart disease, or build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan. Yeah!

Omega-3 fish fat can protect against heart disease by targeting the three key areas of heart disease vulnerability, medically termed the “trilogy of vulnerability”:

• Vulnerable Plaque – the root cause of most heart attacks

• Vulnerable Heart Muscle – prone to electrical disturbances of the heart (arrhythmias)

• Vulnerable Blood – prone to form blood clots
Daily intake of fish fat can boost your heart disease defense system by:

• Decreasing progression of and stabilizing vulnerable plaque

• Reducing your risk of sudden death by protecting against arrhythmias

• Lowering your triglyceride level

• Fighting inflammation

• Thinning your blood – omega-3 fats make platelets less likely to stick together and form clots

One additional advantage of eating fish in lieu of other types of animal protein is that fish is the perfect diet food, loaded with protein but low in saturated fat and calories. Hence, eating your seafood prescription will also help you control your weight. Being overweight is another major risk factor that ups your odds of a heart attack.

Here are a few ideas to help you increase your consumption of healthy seafood:

Go to your local fishmonger and be sure to buy really fresh fish – fish that doesn’t have a fishy smell. Don’t be shy about asking to smell the fish before purchasing. I buy fish that’s right off the boat, in bulk, and take it home, cut it into individual servings, wrap it in wax paper, label and freeze it.

If you eat out, frequent a steak house where you can almost always find salmon or a tuna steak on the menu. Just be sure to order it grilled and simply dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Consider a can of water-packed albacore tuna served over your greens for lunch with olive oil vinaigrette, instead of a sandwich of cold cuts.

Contrary to popular belief, both deep-sea coldwater fish and freshwater fish from cold waters – such as lake herring, lake trout and whitefish – are good sources of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Buy them fresh or frozen. Bake, grill or broil them, but do not deep-fry the fish for maximum heart health benefits.

Use seafood as your protein source of choice. It is a superbly heart-healthy diet strategy. You may be surprised at how delicious simply prepared fresh fish can be.

Chef Mario Spina’s grilled swordfish, Chef Kern Mattei’s steamed red snapper with black bean sauce, Chef Julie Korhumel’s steamed halibut and fresh vegetables in parchment paper, and Chef Keith Blauschild’s tuna Romesco are some the delicious recipes in “Prevent a Second Heart Attack “that feature fish and are sure to please the palate.

Chef Keith Blauschild’s “Tuna Romesco”: A meaty tuna steak topped with a fresh, spicy, almond-studded tomato sauce.

Four 6-ounce tuna steaks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 plum tomato, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Season tuna with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to cook. Roughly chop the tomato. In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and almonds and sauté until the garlic turns golden but not too brown. Add the plum tomato, sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomato is soft. Let cool. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and parsley. To cook the tuna, spray the fillets lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Heat a nonstick skillet or grill to high heat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness.

Serves 4

NUTRITION per 6-ounce tuna and 1/4 cup sauce:
Calories: 285
Fat: 10 g (< 1 g EPA, < 1 g DHA, <1 g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 77 mg
Sodium: 307 mg
Carbohydrate: 6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 2 g
Protein: 43 g

Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, LDN is author of the new book, “Prevent a Second Heart Attack, 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease” (Random House/Crown Publishing 2011) and “Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs” (Random House/Crown Publishing 2006). She is a leading diet- and nutrition writer, educator and practitioner. She consults for the health- and fitness industry, specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention. For more information, please visit: or

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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