Most types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are unsaturated fats that are good for your heart. In fact, eating fish once or twice a week lowers your risk of dying by a heart attack by a third, according to MayoClinic.com. This is good news, but you can do even better. Round out your fish main course with heart-healthy side dishes that also do good things for your heart.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables supply vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium, and they are also a healthy source of dietary fiber. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. You should eat about 4.5 cups of produce each day to give your heart what it needs to serve you well. Have steamed green beans or broccoli with your fish or grill zucchini and red bell peppers to eat with a grilled fish filet. A large spinach salad with tomatoes, onions and cucumbers is another heart-healthy side dish. Sprinkle chopped nuts over cooked vegetables or a salad. Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which make the side dish even better for you. Fresh fruit goes well with fish as well. Serve sliced strawberries or mangoes with your fish entree. Apples, pears, oranges and grapefruit are also tasty and nutritious choices.
Whole grains are packed with dietary fiber. Eating lots of fiber helps lower your cholesterol. Lowering your cholesterol is a good way to protect your heart from disease, reports "Circulation," a journal from the American Heart Association. Have a side of whole-wheat pasta or brown rice with your fish. Cooked barley, couscous and bulgur are also grains that supply a healthy dose of fiber. Combine the cooked grains with vegetables to make the side dish even more beneficial for your heart.
Legumes are another nutritious source of fiber that also help protect your heart. Have a side of lentils with steamed vegetables, both of which taste good with fish. Saute fresh peas with white onions and minced garlic for a low-calorie dish to eat with your fish. Cook your own legumes or look for reduced-sodium versions. Many prepared and packaged legumes, such as canned beans, contain salt to preserve the food and enhance the taste, but too much salt can damage the health of your heart.
Sides to Avoid
Pass on frozen vegetables packaged with sauces or butter because they are high in sodium. Skip deep-fried foods, such as frozen or homemade french fries, too, because they contain too much unhealthy saturated fat. They can also contain trans fats, which raise harmful LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the good HDL cholesterol. Use olive or canola oil to cook your side dishes and don't use solid fats like butter and lard. Solid fats are high in saturated fat and many also contain dangerous trans fats.
- MayoClinic.com: Omega-3 in Fish -- How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart
- HelpGuide.org: Heart Health Diet Tips
- AARP: Eat for a Healthy Heart
- MayoClinic.com: Nuts and Your Heart -- Eating Nuts for Heart Health
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol -- Out With the Bad, in With the Good
- Circulation: Fiber, Lipids, and Coronary Heart Disease
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.