Why Eating Fish Is An Easy Way To Improve Heart Health

We all know heart health is important.

Unfortunately heart health is not something most of us have. According to the CDC[1]

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
  • One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
  • About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease cost the United States about $219 billion each year from 2014 to 2015. This includes the cost of health care services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.

Keep in mind those statistics are just in the United States, the global impact is going to be worse.

Heart disease is not an easy problem to solve, there is no magic bullet. Being healthy is always going to be a multi-factorial goal, regardless of whether we are talking about a specific organ or overall health.

One thing that appears to be clear when it comes to heart health is that eating fish is going to help. What is it about fish that improves heart health?

Fish contain a type of fat called Omega 3. It is these Omega 3 fats that appear to help improve heart health.

A recent study[2] found that when supplementing with Omega 3s there was a reduction in

  • Fatal myocardial infarction by 35 percent
  • Myocardial infarction by 13 percent
  • Coronary heart disease events (10 percent)
  • Coronary heart disease mortality (9 percent)

Last September when I had my Omega fats measured, my total Omega 3 percentage was 5.6%. It was not bad, better than average American, but I knew I could do better.

After changing my diet a little and adding in a little supplemental Omega 3 I am at 9.3%, as of August 2020!

As you can see from the reference in the diagram above, anything over 9% is correlated with a 90% risk reduction in sudden cardiac death!

What Did I Do To Up My Omega 3 Total?

The primary thing I did was make sure I ate fish nearly everyday! SMASH fish are going to be best for getting a good whack of Omega 3s. SMASH stands for salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. I can hear the objections coming now 😉

“I don’t have time to prepare fish everyday!”

Actually you do. All you have to do is open the can and put it on your plate. All of the fish above come canned. I bet it’s quicker than making a protein shake!

“Fish is too expensive!”

Again canned fish is relatively cheap, even for the sustainable wild caught stuff. On Amazon, you can get 12 cans of wild caught sardines for $27, that’s just over $2 a can, not bad at all.

“I don’t like fish!”

I am also sure there is going to be some of you that don’t like fish. Here are some other good sources of Omega 3s.

  • Eggs, specifically pasture raised eggs
  • Oysters (you can find these canned)
  • Cod liver (you can find these canned)
  • Leafy dark green veggies, like kale, broccoli, spinach
  • Kidney, navy, and pinto beans
  • Flax, chia, hemp seeds
  • Kiwi, papaya, mango

The downside of trying to get your Omega 3s from legumes (beans), seeds, fruits, and vegetables is that they actually don’t contain EPA and DHA like fish and animal foods do, they contain something called ALA.

The Downside Of Plant Sources Of Omega 3s

You may have heard that some plants are high in Omega 3s and would be a good alternative to fish, meat, and eggs. Plants do not actually contain the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA like fish does, it contains ALA. ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA, however the amount that gets converted to EPA and DHA is small, around 5%. Due to the low conversion rate, it is very tough to get enough EPA and DHA from plant sources alone.

Is Fish Part of a Healthy Diet?


If fish is not an option for you and you don’t eat eggs, or animal products are not giving you enough Omega 3s, then supplementation might be necessary. I generally advocate whole foods over supplements because whole foods come with additional benefits, but I also understand that it is necessary in some cases. I do include about 400mg of additional Omega 3s in my diet via supplementation on days where I consume SMASH fish. On days where I happen to not consume and SMASH fish I will include about 800mg of additional Omega 3s via supplementation.

So if you need to supplement, what are the recommendations?

The Global Organization For EPA and DHA recommends healthy adults get 500mg of EPA and DHA per day. If you are pregnant or lactating that increases to 700-1000mg. However studies on the benefits for heart health have shown that more than 1000mg is needed[3]. In this meta-analysis each 1000mg increase in supplementation was associated with a 9% reduction in myocardial infarction[4].

Bottom line, when it comes to Omega 3s more appears to be better. Of course you should always work with your health care practitioner when deciding on a supplement regimen. I would also suggest you ask them to get you a test to measure where you are at. There is not going to be one dose that works for everyone so a test can help determine what is right for you. If your practitioner will not order you a test you can always order your own test through a company like Direct Labs.

Kind of lost on what to do?

No worries, here is what you need to do.

  • Shoot for eating one serving of fish per day!
  • If fish is not an option, consider supplementation, but it is best to test first to get an idea of where you currently sit before deciding on how much.

That is it.

Whether your goal is to have general overall health or to break the 3 hour mark in the marathon, your heart health is going to play an important role in making that goal come true. Eating more fish will certainly benefit your heart health, but there are many more lifestyle factors that can also help. My bias is to look to our ancestors who rarely died of heart disease[5] (some hunter gatherer societies don’t even have a word for heart disease!) to see how else we can improve not only our heart health but overall health as well. My newsletter will provide you with all kinds of ancestral aligned insights into achieving your health, fat loss, muscle gain, and athletic goals. Sign up below to jump on board and get all kinds of free information throughout the week.

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  1. (2020, September 8). Heart Disease Facts | cdc.gov. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  2. (n.d.). Effect of Omega-3 Dosage on Cardiovascular Outcomes …. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(20)30985-X/fulltext
  3. (n.d.). EPA & DHA Intake Recommendations | GOED Omega-3. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://goedomega3.com/intake-recommendations
  4. (n.d.). Effect of Omega-3 Dosage on Cardiovascular Outcomes …. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(20)30985-X/fulltext
  5. (n.d.). Hunter‐gatherers as models in public health – Wiley Online …. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.12785

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