A polyunsaturated fat that is needed for proper brain growth and development has really been in the news recently. Omega-3s are found in many foods but are most prevalent in fatty fish. Some of the fatty fish high in Omega-3s include: salmon, sardines, canned albacore “white” tuna, flounder, mackerel and anchovies. Omega-3s can also be found in nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans, flaxseed, eggs and oils. There are three major types of Omega-3 fatty acids that we get from food. The three types used in the body are Alpha-linolenic acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid or ALA, EPA and DHA. Once a food is eaten the body converts the ALA to the other two types of Omega-3 fatty acids so the body can use them more efficiently.
What are the benefits of these Omega-3s? Evidence from research studies show a healthy cardiovascular system is one area that can be helped by these fatty acids. Research has shown that the risk of abnormal heartbeats or arrhythmias is decreased when foods or supplements containing Omega-3s are consumed. This condition of heart arrhythmias can lead to sudden death. Additionally, triglyceride levels have been shown to be decreased in persons who consume foods high in Omega-3s. . Omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure slightly and may slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque. This is why the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times a week.
Beyond heart disease other chronic diseases in which inflammation may be reduced by the intake of fatty acids/Omega-3s are cancer and arthritis. When someone doesn’t get enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids symptoms such as fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, mood swings, depression and poor circulation can occur.
So, if these Omega-3s benefit our body in these ways how much do we need to gain this benefit? According to the American Heart Association one should eat at least two three and one half ounce servings each week. The three and one half ounce serving is referring to a cooked serving. Flaked fish would be a ¾ cup serving.
People often have fish fried but there are many other healthy methods that can be used to prepare fish. Try a tuna or salmon patty, casserole or dish using canned fish such as salmon or sardines, fish tacos, sardines in tomato sauce or on crackers, salads with canned fish on them or pizza with anchovies. Many cooking methods can also be used to make tasty fish. Fish can be grilled broiled, baked, steamed or poached. Here is one example of a simple but good tasting recipe that includes fish.
1 ½ pound salmon fillet
1 ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
1 large lemon, sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Place skin side down on a large sheet of heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle with the dill weed. Place the lemon slices over the salmon. Bring the foil over the salmon and fold the edges together. Fold the foil ends together to create a sealed packet. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or to 145 degrees on a meat thermometer. Serve with additional lemon wedges.
Try some fish today for good taste, more Omega-3s and good health!
Author: Liz Smith, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension
Living Well- More Than a Cookbook, NEAFCS, 2010