If you observe Good Friday, meat is not on your menu today. However, there are great substitutions you can make. The one we’d like to focus on here has the added benefit of being good for your health! Drum-roll, please..
- The winner: Salmon. Try it with leafy greens over couscous, cooked in olive oil. It is packed with fiber, protein, and nutritious essential fatty acids that contain a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
What are Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids?
You’ll recall The National Institutes of Health (NIH) was one of the lead agencies working with the CDC to stop the spread of ebola in the U.S., and provide comprehensive treatment to the infected patients. It’s the nation’s top medical research agency. NIH says it’s crucial we intake Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from dietary sources, because the body cannot produce them itself. Both are a part of the polyunsaturated class of fats–or “good fats” that can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation. They’re also perfect to swap out for unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, growth and development. They also may reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. Infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Omega-3’s are found in many types of fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, and in other seafoods including algae and krill, plus some plants, and nut oils.
Having the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 can be tricky, which is why the typical American diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids! Studies suggest that higher omega-6 to omega-3 dietary ratios can be associated with worsening inflammation and a higher risk of death – yikes!
Dietary Supplements: Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil
If you just can’t stomach fish, nuts, olives (the list really goes on – try some!), there are supplements on the market that contains fish oil and flaxseed oil. They can satisfy your body’s need for the necessary fatty acids. Be careful in choosing the right one to get an accurate amount. The regulatory agencies and industry watchdogs are getting better at holding manufacturers’ feet to the fire on delivering a consistent blend of the nutrients actually listed on their product labels, but you should still look for brands that have been tested by U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. They will usually have a seal on the label. Also check up on the brand with the FDA for safety alerts and advisories.
It’s generally accepted that there’s less chance of adverse effects when you get your nutrition, including essential fatty acids, through the food you eat. So look closely at supplements’ ingredient lists and nutritional facts. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there are any contraindications, meaning reasons why you shouldn’t take them, such as a medication you’re taking or a medical condition you may have. We always keep a drug interaction checker handy. Gone are the days when you would have needed to wheel out a dozen hardcover, leather-bound books to check such drug/dietary supplement interactions. Now there’s an app (or web site) for that. Try the one from Drugs.com at http://www.drugs.com/drug_interactions.html.
Have a blessed Good Friday, and enjoy the Easter weekend with family, friends, and beloved pets!
H/T: ods.od.nih.gov, University of Maryland Medical System