There are so many nutrition hot topics these days, but with it being a month we call attention to our hearts, I figured this would be a good time to focus on Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fish oils can lower blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels; they can reduce death by heart attack as well in people who have suffered one previously. We have long known the cardiovascular effects of these little nutrition powerhouses, but they have some other great side-effects as well: possibly slowing dementia, lowering the risk of eczema in children, possibly improving dry eye, and reducing inflammation. We cannot make these substances in our bodies, so it is important to make an effort to include them in your diet.
So where can you find these gems? How often should you eat them? The best source of Omega-3’s is fish, which the American Heart Association recommends eating at least twice weekly. For best bets, choose a variety; salmon, tuna, cod, trout, mackerel, and even sardines and anchovies offer them. With more of an emphasis on grass-fed dairy and beef, we are finding that these foods also offer a modest amount of beneficial fats. What about if you have an allergy to fish or you happen to be a vegetarian? Don’t worry, there are plant-based sources as well. They are not as well digested and processed in the body, but don’t avoid them, as they still have some benefit. Chia seeds, ground flax, flax oil, seaweed, soybeans, and walnuts are all great additions to the diet (providing fiber and other vitamins and minerals). And you can sneak these foods in daily. Try adding seeds or nut butters to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt. There is also an array of new fortified foods out there such as yogurts, peanut butters, and non-dairy milks. While it is best to stick to natural food sources, these do offer an additional option.
Most americans fall short of the fish servings per week, so they may consider wanting to supplement. Remember more is not always more, so evaluate if you really need a supplement. If you do purchase one, make sure it includes omegas from EPA and DHA. Also, make sure it has a certification from a testing organization such as the NSF to make sure it actually contains what it says and is free of contamination. A pharmacist can help you find one in the store. Be sure to talk with a doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian to make sure the supplement won’t interfere with any medications you are on, and is safe for your current health status.
In health, Angela