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Know Your Nutrients: Omega-3

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What are omega-3 essential fatty acids?

It might be surprising, but there are certain fats that your body actually needs daily. Fatty acids are the basic building blocks from which fats and oils are composed. Certain fatty acids are considered “essential” because they cannot be produced in the body, and must be obtained from outside sources such as food or supplements.

One of the easiest and most available dietary sources of fatty acids is cold water fish. Fish contains what are known as omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), more specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two omega-3 essential fatty acids have many exceptional benefits that are fundamental to your health.  

What are some of the health benefits of omega-3?

Not all fat is considered equal. That’s why it’s important to include healthy types of fat in your diet, particularly omega-3s. These EFAs are key to regulating your heartbeat, reducing inflammation, lowering triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood) and reducing blood pressure. While heart health is a major benefit of omega-3s, these special fats also help reduce inflammation, ease joint pain, and promote healthy brain development and function.  

Where can I find omega-3s in my diet?

Cold water fatty fish is the best source of naturally-occurring omega-3s. It is recommended to consume at least two servings per week (one serving is equivalent to 3.5 ounces cooked) of the following:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Lake trout
  • Sardines

Some foods are fortified with small amounts of omega-3s, including milk, dairy products and eggs. However, check the label to ensure they contain the omega-3s EPA and/or DHA, rather than ALA. This is because although ALA has many health benefits, it is a source of omega-6 fatty acids, whereas omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to have many more benefits for the heart. 

If you don’t like fish, or can’t seem to fit it into your diet at least twice per week on a regular basis, a fish oil supplement can provide you with the beneficial omega-3s that you need.

How much fish oil or omega-3 do I need each day?

While there are no “official” recommendations yet in Canada for how much fish oil you’re supposed to take every day, many organizations suggest the following:

  • If you have no previous heart disease – Include two servings (3.5 to 5 ounces cooked, each) of fatty fish, such as salmon or trout, in your diet each week (Canada’s Food Guide; American Heart Association). If you do not eat fish, a fish oil supplement is an alternative way to get omega-3 essential fatty acids on a daily basis.
  • If you have borderline fasting triglyceride levels – you’ll need 0.5-1 gram (500-1,000 mg) of EPA + DHA per day from fish or fish oil supplements, in consultation with your healthcare practitioner (American Heart Association).
  • If you have high fasting triglyceride levels – you’ll need 1-2 grams (1,000-2,000 mg) pf EPA + DHA per day from fish or fish oil supplements, in consultation with your healthcare practitioner (American Heart Association).
  • If you have very high fasting triglyceride levels – you’ll need 2 to 4 grams (2,000-4,000 mg) of EPA + DHA per day from fish oil supplements, in consultation with your healthcare practitioner (American Heart Association).

Are there any supplements I should avoid taking with omega-3?

One of the ways in which fish oil works is that it helps to thin the blood, reducing the risk of clotting. If however, you are taking any blood thinners (including aspirin), you should avoid taking fish oil. Talk to your health care professional to determine if fish oil is right for you.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa Recipe

Not only is salmon one of the easiest ways to add more omega-3s to your diet, but it’s super quick and easy to make as well. Try this recipe for dinner tonight. In 30 minutes, you’ll have a delicious dinner topped with an additional heart- healthy punch.  This easy-to-prepare baked dish pairs well with a side of sautéed spinach or freshly steamed asparagus.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs salmon, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (I used light extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For the avocado salsa:

  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro (depending on how big of a cilantro lover you are)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix the salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion powder and black pepper together; rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and this seasoning mix.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the grill.
  4. Combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a bowl and mix well; chill until ready to use.
  5. Grill the salmon to desired doneness. (I grilled for about 5 minutes)
  6. Top with avocado salsa and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: http://www.thecookierookie.com/

 

Note: The information provided here is intended solely as a guideline and is not meant to treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare practitioner prior to using any natural health product

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