Anyone that knows even a little bit of health jargon has heard the terms “essential fats” and “omega 3,” but what do these fancy health words actually mean?
Why do you need omega 3?
Omega 3 is basically your best all-rounder healthy fat. When you take in omega 3 fats (linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid – the essential fats), your body converts them to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These fats have numerous functions in the body:
- During infancy – essential for development of the brain, eyes and central nervous system. Luckily breast milk contains EPA and DHA.
- In childhood – low levels are associated with depression and ADHD
- In adulthood – maintenance of cardiovascular function; low levels are also associated with depression.
- During the aging years – maintaining cognitive function
Omega-3 and heart disease
Making sure you get in enough Omega 3 fats through the diet will benefit your health in many ways. They lower risk of heart complications, reduce plaque build-up (in your arteries, not on your teeth!) and intake is associated with fewer heart attacks. Omega 3 fats also help to reduce inflammation, break up blood clots and improve epithelial membrane function (the lining of your veins and arteries).
And those of you with cholesterol problems, listen up! Omega 3 (specifically DHA) will raise your HDL (‘good’) cholesterol to a protective level while keeping your total blood fats low.
So how do you know you’re getting in enough Omega 3?
Marine sources are your best source of Omega 3 fatty acids. We should all be eating a serving of healthy-prepared fish at least twice a week (one serving = 175g). The following fish are the best sources of Omega 3 (decreasing in Omega 3 content):
- Sardines, in sardine oil
- Mackerel, Atlantic
- Herring, Atlantic
- Salmon, Chinook
Other types of salmon (such as pink salmon and Atlantic salmon) also contain Omega 3 fats, but to a lesser extent. Tuna fish and fresh water trout contain lower levels of Omega 3 fat, and farmed trout may be even lower, depending on the diet of the farmed fish.
Plant sources of Omega 3 include:
- Chia seeds
- Spirulina (1 Tbs contains 58mg omega 3)
- Hemp seed oil
- canola oil
What about just taking omega 3 capsules to get in my daily dose?
There are many different types of fish oil and cod liver oil supplements on the market, and this may generally be more cost effective than buying oily fish twice a week. But here are some things about taking supplements vs. getting nutrients from food to bear in mind:
- Nutrient content: eating fish means getting in high quality protein, vitamin D, selenium, cofactors and other healthy fats, whereas taking a supplement means you’re only taking DHA and EPA (and maybe some vitamin D)
- Absorption: studies have shown that DHA and EPA are better absorbed when a whole fish is eaten, because other fats in the fish increase their absorption during digestion.
In a nutshell, there are more benefits to eating natural sources of omega 3 than popping a pill that was made in a factory. If, however, you know for a FACT that you won’t be eating enough natural sources of omega 3 fats, then supplementing your diet with a pill is the way to go.
And now for the fun part – here’s 3 yummy ways you can take in more Omega 3-rich fish!
(OMEGA) 3 WORDS: SUSHI DATE NIGHT!
Whether it’s with friends, your sister, or your other half – have a weekly sushi night! Find a place that has a half-price or platter special, make sure you order salmon and tuna and stay away from the deep fried sushi and pieces with a lot of mayo. If you’re trying to lose weight, fill up on a healthy miso soup starter and order lower-carb options such as cucumber bamboo rolls and sashimi pieces. Remember, 6-8 pieces of rice sushi is enough. No need to overdo it.
These fishcakes are super easy to make! I freeze them in twos and take them to work for lunch with a nice big salad.
2 small tins salmon
¼ cup raw oats
1 medium red onion
1 red pepper
Fresh lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tsp avo/coconut oil
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Finely chop onion and red pepper (or give it a few pulses in a food processor). Add salmon, oats, lemon juice, egg salt and pepper.
- Mix well and roll into 8 evenly sized balls.
- Place on a baking tray, drizzle half a teaspoon avo/coconut oil over each fishcake
- Bake in the oven for 20min or until lightly golden.
HONEY BAKED SALMON
45 ml honey
45 ml soy sauce
Juice of a lemon
Salt & pepper
4 x 150g salmon steaks
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Mix honey, soy sauce and lemon juice together
- Put salmon in shallow bowl (skin side up), pour marinade over and coat well
- Refrigerate for 15 min
- Season with salt & pepper
- Bake in oven (skin side up) for ± 15 min or until done
x Enjoy! x