When it comes to a heart-healthy diet, fish is an essential component. In fact, it's a better choice than other animal protein sources like beef, pork and even poultry, says dietitian LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD.
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That's because fish is higher in heart-healthy unsaturated fats while land-based animal protein contains more saturated fats, which is linked to raising cholesterol levels. According to an April 2019 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, swapping red meat for fish is linked to a longer, healthier life. "Of course, leaner meats and poultry have less total fat and saturated fat, but overall, fish is known for having the best heart-health benefits," says Weintraub.
It's also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help decrease cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, as well as lower the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
The Best Fish to Eat for Heart Health
The AHA recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish a week. This includes eating a variety of the following types of fish:
- Lake trout
- Albacore tuna
Read more: 13 Types of Fish to Avoid Eating
7 Healthy Fish Recipes You'll Love
If you are ready to jump-start a healthier heart, check out this list below for healthy recipes you can easily add to your weekly diet plan.
1. Salmon and Broccolette Superfood Salad
Supercharge your lunch or dinner with this colorful "salad" with quinoa, broccolette (a vegetable that's a cross of broccoli and the Chinese kale called gai lan), carrots, tomatoes and of course, grilled salmon.
Another noteworthy ingredient: Avocado. It adds just the right amount of creaminess to the dish, but more importantly, it amps up the nutritional value. This fruit is loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamin C, niacin, folate and vitamin B6, plus vitamins E and K. And don't overlook the addition of quinoa, a high-protein seed, that's also full of fiber, essential minerals and vitamins.
Get the Salmon and Broccolette Superfood Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: 9 Excuses to Eat More Seafood
2. Hanoi Grilled Turmeric Fish With Dill and Onion
For a punch of anti-inflammatory power, this recipe pairs bass with turmeric and ginger. Turmeric is widely known for its antioxidant power, as well as aiding in digestion and helping to reduce cholesterol. And ginger, a herb that's linked to reducing inflammation and combating nausea, adds a subtly spicy tang to round out this meal.
Get the Hanoi Grilled Turmeric Fish With Dill and Onion recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Sea Bass en Papillote With Mushrooms and Steamed Vegetables
If you haven't tried cooking "en papillote" ("in parchment"), what are you waiting for? Place all your ingredients on parchment paper, create a pocket with the paper and bake it until done. Weintraub loves this cooking method because it is a healthy way to bake that actually steams the food that's enclosed in the paper, she says. "Plus, it makes for easy cleanup — just toss the paper."
Weintraub is such a fan of the cooking style, she recommends another easy go-to recipe: Layer thinly sliced vegetables, fresh lemon and herbs and your fish of choice en papillote for an easy, flavorful meal that turns out great every time, she says. "The moisture from the veggies and lemon steams the fish, and it is very aromatic," she says.
Get the Sea Bass en Papillote With Mushrooms and Steamed Vegetables recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Cajun Fish Sticks Tacos With Party Mango Salsa
Fish can quickly become "unhealthy" if you fry it or add heavy sauces. To avoid sabotaging your attempts at a heart-healthy diet, Weintraub recommends preparing fish with flavorful, low-fat ingredients like fresh citrus, onion, garlic, low-sodium soy sauce, Dijon mustard and herbs like thyme and dill.
"A combination of these ingredients with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil will make a fantastic fish marinade," she says. You can also try air-frying or baking homemade fish sticks, two methods that eliminate most — if not all — of the oil you might've used in a more traditional fish-fry.
Get the Cajun Fish Sticks Tacos With Party Mango Salsa recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Skinny Salmon Rillettes
For those that like to snack, fish is easily adaptable to your go-to recipes, and can even stand-in for most meats like in this rillette recipe. Rillettes, a traditional French dish similar to pâté and traditionally made with pork, gets a heart-healthy upgrade thanks to steamed salmon fillets.
Opt for light mayonnaise to keep this dish lower in calories, fat and sodium. Then use as a dip for your favorite vegetables or spread it on whole-wheat crackers for a mid-afternoon treat that won't wreck your healthy-eating efforts.
6. Grilled Sweet-n-Spice Salmon With Rice
Weintraub's favorite way to prepare and eat fish is pan sautéing it first before finishing it in the oven, like this recipe calls for. "I think this is a nice way to crisp the skin and get the fish to the right temperature without drying it out," she says.
No matter what your flavor preference, fish is arguably as adaptable as chicken. Focus on adding spices, opting for Mediterranean influences like lemon juice and olive oil, and you'll have no problem incorporating more healthy fish recipes into your weekly diet plan.
Get the Grilled Sweet-n-Spice Salmon With Rice recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: 5 Omega-3-Packed Recipes That Aren't Fish