Get hooked on Omega 3.
In this extract taken from The Omega 3 Diet Revolution by Shamala Ratnesar, we discover why this fatty acid benefits our health at every stage of our life.Worldwide attention was drawn to omega 3 fatty acids when Bang and Dyerburg, two Danish researchers working in the 1970s, found that the Inuit people of Greenland had a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than Danish people, despite a diet high in fat. What was their secret? The striking feature of the Inuit diet was a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish and seafood.
Since then, thousands of studies conducted throughout the world have demonstrated the protective, healing and life-enhancing powers of omega-3 fats. Eating a diet rich in omega-3s can prevent serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, reduce inflammatory processes throughout the body, protect against depression and increase our life span. Of added interest is the role of omega-3s during the human life cycle. At all ages and stages of life - from unborn babies through to seniors - omega-3s are not just important to our health and wellbeing, they are essential.
who can benefit from omega 3 s?
- unborn babies and pregnant mums
Before conception and throughout pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, a woman needs a good intake of the marine omega 3 s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to ensure optimum development of her baby's brain and vision. An international group of experts have recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women have 300mg of DHA daily. This translates to about 15g of canned sardines, 25g of canned red salmon or 130g of fresh kingfish.
- newborn babies and nursing mums
Breast is best. Mothers can give their babies the best start in life by breastfeeding them. Breast milk is nature's perfect food, and contains the perfect blend of nutrients - including omega 3 fatty acids. Breastfeeding mums should also continue eating a diet rich in omegea-3s to ensure that they don't deplete their own DHA stores. This will also help to prevent post-natal depression.
- children and teenagers
School-aged children and teenagers need omega-3s for optimum performance at school. We have all heard the saying, "Fish is brain food". Far from being an old wives' tale, it's true! About 60 per cent of the human brain is made up of fat, and of that fat, the predominant fatty acid is DHA.
Give your children all the advantages that good nutrition can offer by including omega-3 in their lunch boxes. This is especially important for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), as studies have shown that they have lower omega 3 levels in their blood than healthy kids. Teenage girls will also benefit from the soothing effect of omega 3, as it reduces period pain and improves skin condition.
Adults need omega-3s to prevent serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and to reduce pain or inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic bronchitis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and some kidney diseases.
Omega 3 s are particularly important for those who already have heart disease. It is now undisputed that fish is truly a food for the heart. You may not know, however, that when canola oil and canola margarine (rich in the plant omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) were used with a Mediterranean-style diet in a groundbreaking heart disease study in Lyon, France, the rate of death was reduced by over 70 per cent.
Omega 3 s may ensure a longer, better quality of life. A diet rich in omega-3s will slow down the ageing process of the body and brain. Seniors need omega-3s to help prevent osteoporosis, boost their immune systems and delay the onset of auto-immune diseases.
Omega 3 s are vitally important for our mental health and wellbeing. They help to prevent and treat depression and protect against mental decline and dementia including Alzheimer's disease.
what else do omega-3s do?
omega-3s boost brain power
Our brains are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Our unique brain structure and capabilities set us apart from all other creatures on Earth. Eating a diet rich in omega-3s will keep our brains active and alert, improving memory and mental acuity.
Omega 3 s can do wonders for the skin, improving texture and clarity from within. Even when it comes to wrinkling of the skin from ageing, omega-3s can makea difference.
So, omega-3s are heart food, bone food, skin food, cancer-fighting food, mental wellbeing food and brain food. I hesitate to call them a miracle food, but any objective judgement shows that they come close.
the elixir of nature
There are two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: plant and marine. It is essential to include plant omega-3s in our diet every day, as our bodies cannot manufacture them. At least 2g is considered to be the minimum amount for good health.
You can get this amont from one tablespoon of canola or mustard seed oil, one teaspoon of flaxseed (linseed) oil, or three slices of soy and linseed bread. The easiest way to obtain your plant omega-3 needs is to use small amounts of canola oil in cooking and a thin spread of canola margarine or canola spread on bread each day.
Marine omega-3s come from the sea. As you would expect, they are found in all kinds of fish and other seafood such as oysters and prawns. All fish contains omega-3, but some are richer sources than others. For example, sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel have a high omega-3 content. A general principle is that the colder the water, the more omega-3s the fish accumulates.
Marine omega-3s can also be found in omega-3 eggs. They are good for everyone, and particularly so for vegetarians.
Aim to include fish in your diet at least twice a week. If you have high triglycerides, heart disease or type 2 diabetes, or if you want to optimise your health, try to have some form of fish/seafood/omega-3 eggs daily.
As food manufacturers have become aware of the life-saving properties of omega-3 fatty acids, they have started to add omega-3s (fish oil) to foods that don't normally contain omega-3s. In many countries, common foods such as bread, milk and orange juice have been enriched with omega-3s and theycan be a valuable addition to our diet, particularly for those who don't eat much fish or seafood.
how do fish & omega-3 fatty acids protect us?
Omega-3 fatty acids work in multiple ways to prevent heart disease or to help prevent you from dying if you do have a heart attack.
- • reduce clotting of the blood (antithrombotic)
- • lower blood pressure
- • help prevent atherosclerosis (or clogging of the arteries)
- • make our arteries more flexible and elastic
- • reduce inflammation (omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect)
- • help prevent ventricular arrhythmia (or chaotic beating of the heart, the biggest cause of sudden death after a heart attack)
- • lower triglycerides (a kind of fat in our blood) and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)
- • raise HDL (the "good" cholesterol)
- • help prevent narrowing of the arteries after bypass surgery
- • lower blood homocysteine levels (high levels increase the risk of heart disease)
example of a diet rich in marine omega-3s
monday ........ salmon and salad sandwich for lunch
tuesday ........ baked trout with lemon and dill for dinner
wednesday ... tuna sandwich for lunch
thursday ....... smoked salmon focaccia for lunch
friday ............ pan-fried fish or grilled Cajun fish for dinner
saturday ....... prawn curry for dinner
sunday ......... pan-fried omega-3 eggs for breakfast
about the book
The Omega-3 Diet Revolution: The Ultimate Health & Weight Loss Solution by Shamala Ratnesar is published by Macmillan Australia. RRP $33.