Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/19/2005 10:28:37 PM
The American Heart Association reports these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which help protect against heart disease.
Reames explains that omega-3 fatty acids help relax the arteries and improve blood circulation to the heart. They inhibit blood clotting and improve heartbeat.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure. These factors make heart attacks less likely. They also keep the arteries open by discouraging the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish act as anti-inflammatory agents and so may have other health benefits for a wide range of health problems.
Fish and seafood are nutrient-dense and packed with protein. Seafood is generally low in calories and fat, containing less than 5 percent fat. Reames says the fat that is found in seafood is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Most seafood also is low in sodium and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including iodine, essential for the thyroid gland to function; iron, for red blood cell formation; and zinc, for wound healing.
Seafood is rich in B vitamins needed for many metabolic processes, such as the release of energy in the body. Oysters, mussels and scallops are especially rich in both iron and zinc. Seafood is an important source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes, skin and hair, and vitamin D, for strong bones and teeth.
According to recommendations from the national Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Americans will be advised to eat two servings of fish a week in the new guidelines to be released early in 2005. The new guidelines will emphasize eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids to protect against heart disease, with advice to pregnant or lactating women and small children to avoid high-mercury fish. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.
For information on related nutrition, family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.