May 12, 2011

AUSTRALIA: Why 'good' fat is so important

SYDNEY, NSW / The Sydney Morning Herald / Wellbeing / May 12, 2011

Sushi brain trainer ... Omega-3 fats in salmon and tuna aid brain function.

Your body can't make them, so the only way to get omega-3 fats is to eat them. Here's why they are so important, and how to make sure you are getting enough.

Omega-3s, as they're known for short, are "good" polyunsaturated fats. They are important for growth and brain function as well as heart health because they help lower triglycerides and total cholesterol.

A diet full of omega-3s also has been linked to improved immunity and a reduced risk of high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

There are three types of omega-3 fats. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are most commonly found in cold-water fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is the omega-3 fat found in plants.

Good sources of EPA and DHA are cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines (salmon and sardines are typically low in mercury as well).

ALA is found in canola oil, soy products such as soybean oil and tofu, flaxseeds, walnuts and in some leafy green veggies (for example, kale).

Omega-3 supplements are also an option; they are made from fish oil, flaxseed or marine algae oil.

When considering a supplement, remember these guidelines: Take with food to avoid a fishy aftertaste or digestive problems, avoid mega-doses unless prescribed by a doctor and remember that supplements will not provide you with the other nutrients found in omega-3-rich foods.

Eat a diet rich in all three types of omega-3 fats.

Experiment with healthy salmon recipes and try to get two servings of omega-3-rich fish per week. An example of a serving would be 170 grams of raw or 110-140g of canned or cooked salmon.

To get some ALA, cook with canola oil, top oatmeal with ground flaxseed, add tofu to stir-fries or sprinkle walnuts on yogurt or salads.


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