Load up on heart healthy Omega-3s

It’s the Lenten season, where Catholics swear off meat on Friday and flock to fish fries. But studies show more people should be turning to fish all year long in order to reap the health benefits. Here’s more on why fish should be a focal point of your diet.

Q: I take a fish oil supplement, should I still incorporate fish in my diet?

A: There is strong evidence that suggests the benefits increase when consuming fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids compared to just taking supplements. However, if you don’t like fish or other foods rich in omega-3s, you should consider taking an omega-3 supplement of 500 mg per day to help decrease the chance of heart disease or stroke. Studies suggest that people who have already had a heart attack may benefit from higher doses of omega-3 supplements. But remember, always consult your physician before taking new supplements.

Q: What is the recommended amount of fish I should eat?

A: The American Heart Association recommends consuming a serving of fish rich in omega- 3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Wild salmon, herring, tuna and halibut are among the fish that contain the most omega-3 fatty acids.

Q: Isn’t there mercury in fish?

A: The Mayo Clinic says that when it comes to a healthier heart, the benefits of eating fish usually outweigh the possible risks of exposure to contaminants. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and young children should limit the amount of fish they eat because they are most susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish.

Q: What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids?

A: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids our bodies need to function normally. Since these fatty acids aren’t made in the body, we need to get them from our diet. A diet high in omega 3-fatty acids turns the body into a well-oiled machine by making platelets “less sticky,” therefore reducing the chances of blood clotting. Shooting for at least one rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet everyday will increase heart health, reduce triglycerides, boost healthy fat (HDL) levels and improve brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help clear up the root of many skin issues, such as acne and dry skin. Fish oil is also known to reduce inflammation in the tissues, which can benefit those suffering with arthritis or other chronic pain. Other surprising benefits include anger, anxiety and stress management. Another bonus: fish oil helps control appetite and helps you feel full faster.

Q: What if I don’t like fish?

A: That’s OK, there are other ways you can add omega-3s to your diet. Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, avocados, soybeans and soybean oil all contain omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your oatmeal or use a tablespoon of canola or soybean oil in your salad dressing — be creative.

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