Health Watch -- Good Fish

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Fish may have a reputation as "brain food," but it can also be good for your heart - if you eat it the right way.

Studies have shown that eating a couple of servings of fish a week raises levels of HDL, the good cholesterol that helps protect you from heart disease. One study of older adults found that those who ate just one serving of fatty fish a week were 44 percent less likely to die of a heart attack than people who didn't eat fish.

Fatty fish include salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring. While we usually think of lean meats as being better for us, fatty fish contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for you. They're essential for growth and development, and they aren't manufactured by the human body.

But nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that how you prepare your fish can make a difference. Don't think that your fried fish fillet sandwich is going to count toward your omega 3 fatty acid requirement. The high heat of frying changes the structure of the fatty acids so they're no longer as beneficial. Frying also adds unnecessary fat and calories to your diet.

Baking or grilling fish will give you the most benefit from fish. If you aren't accustomed to cooking fish, find a good cookbook or talk to the seafood expert at your grocery store for tips.