SMASH Fish for Your Heart

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It’s no secret that eating fish and other seafood is a heart-healthy habit. The American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans both agree on this (read our post on why here). But not all species are rich in these heart-healthy fats. If you’re looking to get the most omega-3 bang for your seafood buck, SMASH fish are the way to go.

What are SMASH fish?

SMASH fish are not some new, exotic species of fish. SMASH is an acronym to help you remember five cold-water fish with good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These are: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. These fatty fish are also excellent choices for the recommended two weekly servings of fish or seafood.

Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats are one of the primary health benefits of eating fish and seafood. In fact, research consistently shows that eating fish and seafood is linked with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Oily or fatty fish are the highest in protective omega-3 fats. The human body does not make omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to get them from food or supplements. These fats help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. They also improve heart health—even if you already have heart disease.

Other benefits of SMASH fish

There’s more to SMASH fish than just omega-3s, of course. Their many nutritional benefits include:

  • Protein – fish and seafood are good sources of high-quality, lower-calorie protein.
  • Calcium and phosphorus – the edible bones in some SMASH fish are excellent sources of calcium and phosphorus. Both are important for bone health.
  • Vitamin D – salmon, mackerel, and sardines are naturally rich in vitamin D. It’s a nutrient that people are often deficient in and is found in a limited number of foods.

SMASH fish are also low in mercury compared to many other species, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can build up to toxic levels in the body. And it’s particularly dangerous for developing brains. Because of this, pregnant or breastfeeding women and children aged 1-11 should limit the amount of fish they consume.

How to eat more SMASH fish

While salmon enjoys great popularity, you might be wondering how to cook and eat the other species. Or even where to find them—some SMASH fish are frequently found canned or “tinned.”

Here are some ideas for canned fish:

  • Top your avocado toast with canned sardines or anchovies
  • Pair canned sardines with whole grain crackers
  • Mix anchovies into a Mediterranean Fish Chowder
  • Stir up a smooth sardine spread for bread or crackers
  • Use canned salmon for fish cakes or “burgers” and serve alongside a salad or atop a bun
  • “Melt” anchovies into a pasta sauce
  • Combine canned salmon with beans for a protein-rich salad
  • Add canned anchovies to a cracker and cheese platter
  • Simmer sardines in a spicy tomato sauce
  • Top a flatbread of pizza with anchovies

Here are some suggestions for fresh fish, which can be cooked in many ways:

  • Coat anchovies with breadcrumbs and pan-fry them for an appetizer
  • Grill a salmon fillet for this Blackened Salmon Sandwich
  • Oven-roast a whole mackerel with garlic, lemons, and herbs
  • Marinate fresh anchovies and serve them with bruschetta
  • Use leftover cooked salmon in a cool Salmon Macaroni Salad
  • Broil mackerel Spanish-style with paprika and lemon
  • Give sardine fillets a quick pan-frying and serve them on toast or in a sandwich
  • Roast anchovies with garlic, lemon, and oregano
  • Grill mackerel in parchment paper
  • Coat salmon fillets with fennel seeds for Fennel-Crusted Salmon on White Beans

There are so many ways to enjoy SMASH fish! You owe it to your heart (and your taste buds) to start eating more of these heart-healthy species.