Omega-3s At Every Meal

Baked salmon

Have you heard of omega-3 fatty acids? These are essential fats that we must get from food; the human body cannot make this particular type of fatty acid. Omega-3s play a special role in cell membranes, hormone regulation and inflammation. They even bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function.

Omega-3s have been studied in depth; research has shown that they can help prevent heart disease, stroke and even play a protective role in cancer. The beneficial relationship between omega-3s and heart disease has the strongest evidence, including its effect on lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Walnuts, raspberries, banana and chia seeds makes for a breakfast rich in omega-3s

Seafood rich in omega-3s includes salmon, fresh tuna and halibut. Incorporating fresh fish into your family dinner meals is always a great idea. I like to take advantage of ordering seafood when I dine out, as it is typically prepared in a lighter way than other entrees. Grilled salmon or lightly seared tuna is an excellent entrée option that is packed with omega-3s and heart-healthy benefits.

Omega-3s are known to be found in fish, however they are abundant in other foods as well. There are various plant-based omega-3 foods that include certain oils, nuts, seeds and beans. For example, walnuts, ground flaxseeds and chia seeds are known for their high omega-3 content. I love to add chopped walnuts and ground flaxseeds to cereal, yogurt or even salads for a nutritious boost. Chia seed pudding makes for a delicious healthy dessert, and you can find countless recipes for this on Pinterest.

There are also many foods that are fortified with omega-3s; these include eggs, milk and yogurt. These foods can be incorporated into your diet as snacks, such as a yogurt parfait or glass of milk/soy milk. I personally love a veggie-filled omelet for breakfast on the weekends, which can add some additional omega-3 benefit when fortified.

Crispy Brussels sprouts with crushed toasted walnuts and golden raisins. Check out the recipe by Chef Alan Zox: Homemade Snacks

Certain green leafy vegetables are also good sources of ALA, which is one form of omega-3 fatty acids. These vegetables are packed with fiber and other nutrients as well. Try Brussels sprouts, kale, or spinach as a side with your dinner meal. Try kale chips as a snack or roasted Brussels sprouts to snack on during the day.

I often get asked whether or not one should take an omega-3 supplement. It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration advises no more than 3g of omega-3s per day, or else an individual may experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. If you are eating fish at least twice a week and regularly including the other omega-3 rich foods listed in this article, you may not need an omega-3 supplement. Additionally, food forms are naturally more bioavailable to the body than supplements. However, if you dislike fish or may not be able to afford having fresh fish on a regular basis, an omega-3 supplement may not be a bad idea for you.

Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian nutritionist at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit www.StefHealthTips.com for more info.

Stefani Pappas Sassos
Long Island Weekly columnist Stefani Pappas, RDN, CPT, is a clinical dietitian at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private and group nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck. Visit Stef Health Tips for more information.

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