Are you looking for an improvement in mood, the condition of your hair and protection against heart disease? If so, omega-3 fats are the perfect option for you! In fact, omega-3 fats are essential fats that should be included in everyone’s diet daily.
What are Omega-3 Fats?
Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats that have been shown to provide enormous health benefits including protection against heart disease, anti-inflammatory properties and attention and behavioural improvements in children. Unfortunately, most North Americans are chronically deficient in these “good” fats. While the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is approximately 1:1, most of us have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 or 30:1.
Omega-3 fats are called essential fats because they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet. The top five food sources rich in omega-3 fats include:
Cold-Water Fish – Cold-water fish sources such as salmon and tuna are a wonderful source of omega-3, protein, selenium and vitamin D. However, the safety of eating fish has recently come under investigation due to rising toxicity levels. In terms of tuna, one of the most highly eaten fish sources, the concern lies with the amount of mercury present in the fish. It is estimated that mercury levels in the environment have increased three to five times in the past century due to industrial operations such as pulp and paper processing, burning garbage and fossil fuels, mining operations and releases from dental offices. Mercury is an element that is toxic in all its forms.
Salmon has shown an increase in chemical pollutants called PCBs which have been linked to an increase in cancer rates. In short, in order to reap the omega-3 benefits from eating cold-water fish and to keep toxicity levels low, choose lower mercury canned tuna instead of higher mercury white tuna and purchase Wild Atlantic salmon instead of farmed salmon. Other “safer” fish also include pollock, halibut, tilapia and shrimp. Eat a maximum of 12 ounces of fish sources per week (two meals). Stay away from shark, swordfish, ling mackerel or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
Ground Flaxseeds or Flaxseed Oil - Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are a good source of omega-3 fats. Whole flaxseeds can be purchased at most bulk food or health food stores. The outer husk of flaxseed is very hard and difficult to crack when chewing so flaxseeds should be ground in a coffee grinder, food processor or blender in order for the body to digest them when eaten. If not, whole flaxseeds will pass right through the body undigested and we will not gain any of their nutritional advantage. By grinding flaxseeds, our bodies will also benefit from their fiber, essential oils and lignans (beneficial plant chemicals) qualities. Similar to grinding coffee, flaxseeds should be ground fine for best palatability. To ensure freshness after grinding, store your flaxseeds in an airtight, dark container. Once ground, add flaxseeds to your morning cereal, salads, juice, protein shakes or just eat them plain. Ground flaxseeds stay fresh and safe to eat for 90 days. Flaxseed oil can be used in salad dressings and stays fresh in the fridge for three months.
Omega-3 Eggs - Omega-3 eggs are similar in look, taste, storage qualities and cooking versatility as normal eggs. The only difference between omega-3 eggs and normal eggs is that omega-3 eggs are produced by chickens that have been fed with alfalfa, corn, soybean and flaxseeds. As mentioned above, flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fats which has been shown to be beneficial to human health. In fact, an average-sized omega-3 egg contains approximately 320 mg of omega-3 while a regular egg contains approximately 63 mg of omega-3.
Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, cashews and pecans are wonderful crunchy additions to salads, yogurts, stir-fry or are delicious and nutritious on their own. Walnuts are especially high in precious omega-3 fats. In fact, ¼ cup of walnuts contains 2.3 grams of omega-3 fats, approximately 91% of the daily value needed for omega-3 essential fats. Walnuts are also a rich source of monounsaturated fat, an important fat necessary in improving cardiovascular health.
Fish Oils – Although not technically a food, fish oil is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting a sufficient amount of omega-3 into your daily diet. Fish oils are especially beneficial as supplements considering dietary restrictions and recommendations of 12 ounces of fish per week. Even by including all the above omega-3 rich foods into the diet, it is still difficult to reach the necessary two to three grams of omega-3 daily requirements. When purchasing fish oils, make sure they are distilled and enteric-coated for maximum absorption and low-level toxicity
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