by Marissa Lippert, R.D. Men's Fitness
What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? They might help prevent heart disease, for one—so it’s worth it to eat up.
Here's how to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s. That’s some type of fraternal order, right?
Wrong. These polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs for short—but also known as “healthy fats”) are essential to your diet, and here’s why.
See, you can kind think of omega-3s as your superhero of the world of good fats. Research finds that they may help prevent the onset of heart disease, ward off macular degeneration, improve cognitive function, and reduce the risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer. Plus, they’re anti-aging (goodbye wrinkles!), anti-inflammatory and can aid healthy digestion and boost mood. Not too shabby, huh?
Two types of omega-3s, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are derived from cold-water fatty fish, while alpha linoleic acid (ALA) is found in vegetarian sources that then need to be converted to DHA and EPA in your body. The bottom line is, you should be consuming at least 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA—but don’t worry yourself with the details. These five foods will help you get your fill.
6 ounces of salmon has about 3.5 grams (3500 milligrams) of EPA and DHA
Among oily, cold-water fish, salmon’s an easy choice to up your intake of omega-3s—and research suggests consuming oily fish twice a week for good heart health. So wrap a 6-ounce salmon filet and some asparagus spears in parchment paper; top it with salt, pepper, lemon slices, a sprig or two of thyme and a ligh drizzle of olive oil; and bake that sucker at 400°F for about 20 minutes. There you have it. You’ve got an easy, spruced up meal. (You can also try this MF recipe for 20-Minute Baked Salmon.)
1 ounce of walnuts (about 15-20) has 2.6 grams (2600 milligrams) of EPA and DHA
Walnuts are your versatile best friend, and they’re damn filling. Toss them into your morning oatmeal, add them to an afternoon salad, or sprinkle them on top of roasted chicken or sautéed vegetables at dinner. (Hey, one study even found that two handfuls of walnuts a day could keep your sperm healthy!)
1 ounce of ground flaxseed has 1.8 grams (1800 milligrams) of EPA and DHA
Flaxseed has a nutty flavor and is loaded with fiber for healthy digestion (if you’re in need of an extra tune-up). Sprinkle a teaspoon or two over the top of yogurt with fruit, blend it into a smoothie, or mix it into salads for a flavor—and healthy fat—boost.
4 ounces of sardines contain 1.8 grams (1800 milligrams) of EPA and DHA
Salty, slippery and crammed with omega-3s, sardines are an optimal pick if you like them. (We know: they're not for everybody.) Anyway, grill them up with slices of fresh fennel, then toss with sun-dried tomatoes, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Serve over grilled country bread or baguette for an extra-healthy appetizer.
1 tablespoon of walnut oil contains 1.4 grams (1400 milligrams) of EPA and DHA
Like fine wine and exceptional Scotch, walnut oil is a bit of an indulgence, but it’s well worth adding to the collection of oils in your pantry. Use it to enhance the flavor of sautéed green beans, roasted Brussels sprouts or grilled asparagus—or whisk it into a nutty vinaigrette to drizzle over salad. Yes, your kitchen just got a little fancier.
Most supplements contain 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA per pill
Yes, we are well aware that a supplement is not food. But if you can't stand fish or just aren't getting the goods from your diet in general, look to a fish oil supplement for a daily dose of health-boosting fats.