Did I even mention that I’m a 7th generation Texan and my family is about as Southern (and country) as they come? I don’t know if you know much about the South, but we are all about food, particularly fried foods.
Break your arm? Well, bless your heart - have a piece of homemade peach cobbler with a big old scoop of this homemade vanilla ice cream and that will fix you right up. Just got divorced? Why honey, sit right down here and eat this banana split and tell me all about it and you’ll feel better. Did Uncle Joe just die? No worries. Fifteen ladies from the local Baptist Church alone will bring you enough food the first day to feed at least three starving nations in Africa! And, this will be before you even leave the hospital and finish calling the family. You won’t have to buy food for six months!
Seriously, I don’t know how it’s done in other parts of the United States but if your Southern, then you know what I’m talking about. Food is one of the solutions to life’s problems – that is until all this good comfort food ends up around our waist, hips and thighs causing high cholesterol, too much weight and all kinds of other problems.
I certainly have a passion for food (I love to eat – it is what it is) as do most of the people I know. What if I told you that there was a way that you could eat your way to a healthier heart. Would you be interested? It really seems too easy to think that simply changing your diet and adding certain foods can improve your heart health but it’s true. One of the cholesterol lowering tools that we have at our disposal is the very amazing Omega-3.
Omega-3 (also called Omega-3 fatty acids) is an unsaturated fat that is found in fish. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lower your risk of suffering a fatal heart attack by as much as a third simply by eating fish once or twice a week. The American Heart Association goes one step further and recommends eating fish twice a week.
Omega-3 is believed to function as an anti-inflammatory. As such, the benefits of consuming Omega-3 extend far beyond just improving your heart health. This wonderful little fatty acid is also credited with the following:
• Increased learning ability in children
• Lower triglyceride levels
• Lowing your blood pressure
• Reduction of blood clotting
• Improved immune system
• Reduce arthritis symptoms
• Slow the rate of atherosclerotic plaque growth
• Lowering risk of heart arrhythmias
• Lowering risk of heart disease (In particular, it’s thought to lower your risk of suffering a fatal heart attack or a sudden heart attack).
I have to admit, that my first thought when I think "fish" is a big, overflowing plate of deep-fried (remember, I mentioned that we love fried foods in the South?), rolled in cornmeal, catfish. Yummy! Much to my disappointment, not all fish are created equal when it comes to Omega-3. Catfish (along with tilapia and other fish), has low levels of Omega-3. In addition, it also has high levels of a substance called arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid can actually increase your risk of heart disease because it causes inflammation. The inflammation leads to plaque buildup which in turn leads to heart disease. I have to tell you that I really was most unhappy to learn this catfish fact. So, if catfish is out of the picture in terms of Omega-3, what is in? With the exception of lake trout, seafood is generally higher in Omega-3 than fresh water fish. The major Omega-3 winners are salmon, herring, sardines, lake trout, albacore tuna and mackerel.
It really is a bummer to learn that catfish didn’t make the “A-list” in terms of Omega-3. But, there are still enough wonderful Omega-3 filled fish on the list to cause my taste buds to sin. I wonder if there are any emergencies, broken bones, divorces, deaths brewing in my little Southern neighborhood. I better go start cooking a big salmon steak just in case. I can always eat it myself if there are no problems to be solved!
Until next time, here’s wishing you a healthy heart.
Note: For more information on heart health related issues, please visit other “A Woman’s Heart” articles by this author.
(Disclaimer: I am not a physician and nothing in this article should be construed as giving medical advice. As with any medical decision, please consult your physician.)
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, 25 Nov 2009, American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4632
Omega-3 in Fish: How eating fish helps your heart, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/omega-3/HB00087