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A diet that includes at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week may lower your risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol, advises the American Heart Association. To get the maximum benefits from eating fish, however, you'll need to serve side dishes that are equally heart-healthy. Skip white rice, white pasta and white potatoes, and high-calorie, high-fat dishes low in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Instead, prepare side dishes rich in whole grains, poly- and monounsaturated fats and fresh produce. In addition, watch your portion size: Even healthy foods can cause weight gain if you eat too much.
Brown Rice Pilaf
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Compared to white rice, brown rice contains a higher concentration of fiber and B vitamins, two nutrients linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Although you can serve plain brown rice as a side dish for any type of grilled, broiled or baked fish, Mark Bittman, author of "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," suggests preparing a brown rice pilaf for more flavor. Saute chopped onions in olive oil, add the rice and cook until the grains are light brown before adding broth or water and any herbs or spices you prefer. Plan on 2 1/2 cups of liquid for every 1 1/2 cups of brown rice.
Quinoa with Vegetables
For a side dish that cooks quicker than brown rice, try quinoa, which can be prepared in about 15 minutes. A grain-like seed harvested from a native South American plant, quinoa has more potassium per serving than any other whole grain, according to the Whole Grains Council. A high intake of potassium may help decrease your chance of dying from heart disease. Cook 1 cup of rinsed quinoa in 2 cups of liquid like water or broth. When the liquid is completely absorbed, stir in small chunks of steamed or leftover vegetables such as broccoli, carrots or peas.
Couscous with Herbs
If you're pressed for time, whole-wheat couscous is an even better alternative than quinoa as a fast fish side dish. Boil water or broth -- use 2 1/4 cups of liquid for each 1 1/2 cup of dry couscous -- pour in the couscous and let it stand for about eight minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the grains with a fork, gently stir in a tablespoon of olive oil and add your choice of dried or minced fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary or dill. These herbs are high in antioxidant compounds that can help prevent heart disease.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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You don't have to give up potatoes as a side dish for your favorite fish entree: just substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes. Sweet potatoes have more fiber, vitamin C and heart-healthy antioxidant compounds such as beta-carotene and anthocyanins than white potatoes. They also have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes, meaning they won't cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar that can leave you feeling hungry not long after eating. Try pairing cooked fish with thick slices of sweet potato that have been tossed with olive oil, minced fresh thyme and chopped garlic and roasted until tender, approximately 40 minutes at 450 degrees F.
- American Heart Association: Fish 101
- Harvard Health Publications: Avoid These Foods for a Healthier Heart
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Three of the B Vitamins - Folate, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12
- How to Cook Everything Vegetarian; Mark Bittman
- Whole Grains Council: Quinoa - March Grain of the Month
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Antioxidant Activity and Phenolic Compounds in Selected Herbs
- Los Angeles Times: Sweet Potatoes vs. White Potatoes - Are Both Bad for the Waistline?
- Epicurious: Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images