omega 3s and all that good stuff
01-26-2003 03:16 AM
omega 3s and all that good stuff
short to the point article concerning the goodness of omega3's...indeed.
After years of telling consumers to eat less fat, health professionals are now advising them to eat more of one particular kind -- omega-3 fats, a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that seem to play a role in the prevention of heart disease. The journal Archives of Internal Medicine recently published a review of what scientists know -- and what they've yet to find out -- about this heart-healthy fat.
Sources of omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish, particularly in fatty fish native to cold waters, such as mackerel, salmon, herring, and albacore tuna. Vegetable sources include flaxseed, canola (rapeseed) oil, soybeans and soybean oil, some nuts, wheat germ, pinto beans and some leafy dark greens like kale and purslane -- a leafy green popular in the Mediterranean.
High-fat diets, healthy hearts
Interest in omega-3 fatty acids was sparked about two decades ago when researchers became intrigued by the Greenland Eskimos, who had a low rate of heart attack even though their diet contained about 39% of calories from fat. Their apparently healthy hearts were particularly striking when the group was compared with a similar population in Denmark who consumed an equally fatty diet (42% of calories from fat) but had much higher rates of heart disease. Much of the fat in the Greenlanders' diet was found to be in the form of omega-3s contained in the fatty fish and whale meat that they consumed daily. By comparison, the Danes' diet was much higher in saturated fat and contained only a trace of omega-3s.
Since then, omega-3s have been extensively studied. Overall, studies indicate that regularly consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to reduce the risk of heart disease. The beneficial effect seems to be most evident in people already at risk for heart disease and those who have experienced a heart attack. In one large study of heart attack survivors, those who consumed a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish or vegetable sources had a markedly decreased risk of a second heart attack.
Omega-3s and the heart
It appears that omega-3s protect the heart in several ways. They may lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms; reduce the "stickiness" of blood cells, which makes them less likely to form clots and block arteries; and lower high blood triglyceride levels. Most studies have centered on marine sources of omega-3 fatty acids; less is known about the vegetable sources.
Fishing for omega-3s
A Mediterranean-type diet that emphasizes fish, produce, and whole grains is likely to include healthy amounts of omega-3s. The typical Western diet, however, usually contains only small amounts.
In both its guidelines for heart attack survivors and its dietary guidelines for the general public, The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Other ways to add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet include:
Use canola or soybean oil in place of other vegetable oils. Also, look for soft margarines made from these oils.
Try flaxseed, a small nutty-tasting seed that is rich in omega-3s. Small amounts of whole flaxseed can be sprinkled over salads or cereals, or added to baked goods, pancakes, or waffles. Or substitute a teaspoon of flaxseed oil for a teaspoon of other liquid oil in salad dressing.
Add small amounts of chopped walnuts to salads or toss with cooked vegetables.
Note: Fish oil supplements can deliver a dose of omega-3s substantially higher than what is available from foods, so be sure to check with your physician before using them.
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