Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is canned fish good for the heart?

Ask the doctor

Is canned fish good for the heart?

Q. I know that eating fish is good for the heart. But fresh fish costs a lot and I can't get to the grocery store very often. Does eating canned fish help?

A. Canned salmon, tuna, sardines, kippered herring, and other types of fish are pretty much on a par with fresh fish. They give you as much heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fresh fish, and sometimes more. These essential oils help prevent potentially deadly heart rhythms. They also work against inflammation and the formation of blood clots inside arteries. An Italian study published in 2001 found that people who ate fresh or canned fish at least twice a week were 30% less likely to have had heart attacks as those who ate fish less than once a week.

Whenever possible, choose fish packed in water. Since water and oil don't mix, omega-3 fats remain locked in the fish. When fish is packed in oil, some of the omega-3 fats intermingle with the packing oil and are lost when the oil is drained.

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