Many people with high cholesterol try to lower it by means of diet instead of costly cholesterol-lowering medications. Fish are well known for their omega-3-fatty acids, and tilapia is a favorite choice for many. However, eating high amounts of fish (such as tilapia) may not be as beneficial for lowering cholesterol as once thought.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, high blood cholesterol can be caused by diet, being overweight, lack of physical activity, heredity, age and gender. Although some causes, such as heredity and age, can’t be helped, blood cholesterol can be lowered by exercising, weight loss and dietary changes. Foods containing high amounts of saturated and trans fats can significantly increase blood cholesterol levels, and should be limited.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been thought to be associated with decreases in cholesterol. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease and reduce triglycerides but do not affect total cholesterol or HDL, or good, cholesterol levels. Some studies show that omega-3s actually increase LDL cholesterol, which is the bad kind.
Although certain fish contain high amounts of omega-3-fatty acids, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research says tilapia contains low levels of omega-3s and high levels of arachidonic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Eating excessive amounts of arachidonic acid can increase the risk for heart disease by causing inflammation, which can lead to plaque buildup in arteries. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna.
Although tilapia is low in omega-3 fatty acids, it contains some beneficial omega-3s, is low in fat and high in protein. The Department of Health and Human Resources cholesterol-lowering TLC diet recommends eating fish two times per week. Pregnant and nursing women should limit fish intake due to the presence of mercury, which is a neurotoxin. However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tilapia contains lower amounts of mercury than many other types of fish. The FDA website provides an extensive list of mercury levels in various types of fish.
The TLC cholesterol-lowering diet encourages foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy products and lean meats, such as fish and poultry.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research recommends the following foods to help lower cholesterol: foods high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, apples, kidney beans, pears and barley, olive oil, foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as walnuts and almonds, and foods that have been fortified with plant sterols or stanols, such as some margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: NIH Senior Health
- National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Diabetes and CAM: A Focus on Dietary Supplements
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research: Omega-3 in fish: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart
- Department of Health and Human Resources: Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish
- fish image by devilpup from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.