If you frequently go to health food stores in and around the Toronto area, then you are already making strides when it comes to improving your health. You likely understand the importance of fitness and good nutrition, and are finding ways to fit healthy practices into your lifestyle, even though we live in a world where it can be difficult to eat healthy and find the time to exercise like we know we should.
You may be looking for even more ways to improve your overall health and the health of your family. Nutritional supplements can go a long way, but you may also want to look at the foods you are consuming, and consider increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids.
These essential fatty acids are part of many of your normal body functions, and your body may have difficulty using them properly if you do not incorporate the right balance of these fats in your diet. Various studies point to omega-3s as essential for proper blood clotting, cognitive function, development in babies, and heart health. Studies are also beginning to reveal benefits to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and even certain mental health issues like depression.
Sounds great, right? So why are we not loading up on omega 3 fatty acids?
- The National Academy of Sciences recommends an intake ratio of about 10 grams of omega 6 fatty acids for each gram of omega-3s consumed
- On average, people in North America are estimated to eat a ratio of 12:1 or even 15:1.
- More studies are suggesting that lower ratios are actually better, down as low as 1:1 but no higher than 5:1.
For many people to achieve these ratios, it makes sense to take supplements, and to reduce their intake of omega 6 fatty acids in order to achieve the right balance. However, you can also obtain omega 3 fatty acids through a good, healthy diet, if you know which foods to look for. Here are some to consider, many of which may be unexpected.
A staple among the health-conscious population, fatty fish is considered one of the best sources of omega-3s. The important part is balancing out the consumption of fish for omega-3s and the potential mercury content that some seafood contains.
The guidelines set out by the American Heart Association suggest that people should eat two servings of fatty fish per week. Those servings should consist of about 3.5 ounces of cooked fish, or ¾ cups of fish that has been flaked. People who have certain issues like coronary artery disease may want to have more than that, and should consider talking to their doctors about supplements. Individuals with high triglycerides may want to also consider more.
The best fish to consume are those lowest in mercury. These include salmon, canned light tuna, shrimp, catfish, and pollock. You should avoid those fish with high mercury levels, which include mackerel, tilefish, shark, and swordfish. The best preparations are baking or grilling versus frying.
Most of the meat found on shelves today was raised eating corn. Corn contains a significant amount of omega-6 acids, which are healthy in moderation, but tend to be over-consumed by most people in developed countries. Because of this diet, omega 6 to omega 3 ratios in most meats are around 9:1. By comparison, grass-fed animals have a much healthier ratio of 2:1.
Aside from having a healthier balance of unsaturated fats, grass-fed meat also tends to have lower levels of saturated fat as well. Consuming it can mean lower blood cholesterol levels.
Enriched Eggs and Dairy Products
Many of your favorite foods, like cheese and eggs, can be enriched with omega 3 fatty acids by providing a healthier diet to the animals producing them. For example, conventional eggs contain an omega 6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 15:1, whereas enriched eggs can have a much more desirable 1:1 ratio.
Hens who lay these enriched eggs can get their omega-3s from a variety of sources. They may have a diet of seeds and bugs for which they are allowed to forage, or could eat fish oil or flaxseed. Note that you will only gain these benefits if you eat the whole egg, as the nutrients are concentrated within the yolk.
Seeds and Nuts
If you are prone to snacking, why not make it a healthy snack? All nuts contain an abundance of the healthy fat ALA, which is present in most plant-derived foods. Nuts to lookout for include almonds and particularly walnuts. Try swapping them out for different items in recipes, as well, like in place of chocolate chips in cookies, or utilizing walnut oil instead of olive oil when cooking.
A favorite appetizer for many people who love Asian cuisine, edamame is full of omega 3 fatty acids. The ratio contained in edamame is a bit higher, coming in at 5:1, but this is somewhat balanced by this soybean’s ability to reduce blood cholesterol, and its high fiber content. It also contains plenty of protein, making it a very healthy snack.
You can get plenty of ALA from your daily vegetable consumption, so pick a few veggies that you like and make sure you get your proper number of servings per day. Green leafy vegetables are particularly healthy, including kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts.
What are some of your favorite foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids? We love hearing new ideas and new recipes, so please share with us in the comments. If you want some ideas for yourself, make sure to stop by Better Living to learn more about the various foods and supplements that we have which can help you reach the right number of omega-3s each day for optimum health.