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What are Omegas? These essential fatty acids are building blocks of fat. They’re essential because our body can’t produce them so we must obtain them from our diet. Another essential fatty acid, Omega-6, is readily obtained in our diet. However, Americans may benefit from increasing the amount of Omega-3s and lowering the Omega-6s in their diet to improve the balance to an optimum level.

Why are they good? Omega-3s are believed to lower the risk of heart disease, boost immunity, and reduce artery inflammation. They may even benefit other inflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and arthritis, and lower blood pressure.

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Where are they found? Fatty fish, such as albacore tuna, salmon, lake trout, herring and mackerel are excellent sources and are high in two kinds of Omega-3s (EPA and DHA). Plant sources include soy (such as tofu and soybeans), canola oil, walnuts and walnut oil, flaxseed oil and flaxseed. Plant sources are high in alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) which can become Omega-3 in the body. You can also discuss a fish oil supplement with your doctor.

How much do I need? The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fatty fish at least twice a week (children and pregnant or lactating women should follow guidelines for avoiding mercury in fish) along with omega-rich plant sources. If you have documented heart disease or high triglycerides, talk to your health care provider about how much EPA and DHA to include in your diet.

Top 10 Ideas for Adding Omega-3s to Your Everyday Meals:

1) Sprinkle ground flaxseeds in smoothies, rice pilaf, salads, cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
2) Replace ground flaxseed for 10-15% of the flour in muffins, breads and pancakes.
3) Grab a small handful of walnuts for a snack or sprinkle toasted walnuts on your green or fruit salad.
4) Use walnut oil or flaxseed oil in homemade salad dressing.
5) Order tofu stir-fry the next time you eat Chinese or Thai food.
6) Use edamame (green soybeans) in place of other beans in your next salad or enjoy steamed edamame as a snack.
7) Try one new recipe a week using fatty fish, or top your salad with salmon or tuna.
8) Order salmon instead of steak the next time you dine at a steak house.
9) Stir-fry using a small amount of canola oil.
10) Go veggie a couple of times per week and use tofu or other soy products as your protein source.

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