Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Anything with the word “fat” in it may sound a little scary to weight-conscious individuals. Yes, some fats are bad (e.g. saturated and trans fats), but luckily, there are good fats to balance out the equation.
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There is a lingering anti-fat bias, however, not all fats are bad for us. In fact, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are vital for our health.
- May lower risk of heart disease
- Primary sources: canola, peanut and olive oils.
- Other sources: avocados; almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and other nuts; and pumpkin and sesame seeds.
- Includes anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, which the human body cannot produce.
- Oil sources: sunflower, corn, soybean and flaxseed oils.
- Food sources: fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and some dairy products.
We need healthy fats because our bodies use fatty acids for many important bodily functions, including:
- Brain composition and functioning. Fats make up 60% of the brain and are crucial for learning, memory retention and controlling moods.
- Building cell membranes and helping cells stay flexible.
- Keeping heart strong and in rhythm. Sixty percent of the heart’s energy is from fat burning.
- Protecting nerves and speeding transmission of electrical impulses.
- Reducing surface tension to keep lungs from collapsing.
- Slowing digestion giving the body time to absorb nutrients.
- Acting as a constant source of energy.
- Helping in absorbing vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Easing inflammation.
Fish is a great source of protein and good fats, namely omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and help prevent chronic conditions, like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. However, not all fish are packed full of omega-3 fatty acids. Unsurprisingly, fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and salmon are high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, while canned tuna, cod and scallops have lower omega-3 levels.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has charted levels of omega-3 and mercury found in fish and shellfish. Considering mercury levels is important before casting your fishing line, and more importantly, in gauging how often to consume. Take a look at some of their findings below.
Fish (less fatty):
- Canned (light) tuna – 0.12 mean mercury level in parts per million (ppm); 0.17-0.24 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
- Cod – 0.11 mean mercury level in ppm; 0.15-0.24 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
- Scallops – 0.05 mean mercury level in ppm; 0.18-0.34 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
- Fresh or frozen tuna – 0.38 mean mercury level in ppm; 0.21-1.1 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
- King mackerel – 0.73 mean mercury level in ppm; 0.36 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
- Salmon – 0.01 mean mercury level in ppm; 1.1-1.9 grams of omega-3 per 3 oz. serving
Here are a few ways to incorporate more fish into your diet:
- Substitute fish in place of another type of protein.
- Snack on sardines.
- Grill fresh fish steaks instead of ground beef.
- Make fish kabobs.
- Grill, broil or bake fish rather than fry. Remember: the fattier the fish, the more omega-3.
Get kids hooked on fish early, so they form a healthy habit. Once you feel comfortable altering your normal protein regimen by adding fish, the possibilities are nearly endless. Fish is quick and easy to prepare and complements a wide variety of side dishes.
For more on omega-3, watch this video:
Although most fatty, cold-water fish are good sources of omega-3, the richest and most beneficial source is Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon is unique among high-protein foods, because it is powerfully anti-inflammatory. However, the benefits don’t stop there.
Salmon gets its red color from an antioxidant carotenoid (i.e. fat-soluable pigment group) it contains called astaxanthin. Dubbed the “red gold from the sea,” astaxanthin is commonly linked to eye health, but research has found it has other health benefits.
Haematacoccus pluvialis algae protects itself from UV radiation by producing astaxanthin when surrounding water dries up. Similarly, astaxanthin may safeguard the skin from UVA damage. Additionally, astaxanthin may protect against cataracts and stroke, while it may provide weight control benefits. It is ten times more potent than beta-carotene, and it may have 500 times more free radical fighting capacity than vitamin E.
Per 4 oz. serving, Alaskan Wild sockeye contains 4.5 milligrams of astaxanthin, while farm-raised Atlantic salmon contains only one quarter to one half of the amount of astaxanthin found in Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. Studies suggest astaxanthin prevents oxidation of healthy fatty acids in plasma, the liquid part of blood. Thus, a combination of astaxanthin with omega-3, like in Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, is especially effective.
Want to include more of the synergistic combination of astaxanthin and omega-3 into your diet? Try salmon recipes from NV Perricone. And if you don’t like salmon, Perricone also offers omega-3 supplements, available even cheaper now that there are Perricone deals available.