Fish Oil – Is It Important to Take & Why?

When it comes to fish oil, experts are divided regarding the usage and safety in the general population. Research has long shown the benefits that eating fish and other seafood, but the benefit may not just lie in the type of fat found in fish, but other nutritional factors found in these foods. Fish and fish oil supplements contain specific types of omega-3 fats: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

These omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by the human body, which means they must be consumed through the diet. Plants and seeds, although they contain omega-3s, they do not contain the specific types of omega-3s found in fish, DHA and EPA. Plants such as spinach, spirulina, flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has been deemed inferior to fish oil because the human body must convert ALA to DHA and EPA; the conversion every ineffective, only about 12% is converted.

Fish OilThere are a number of benefits to consuming an adequate amount of omega-3s; they play an important role in brain function, growth and development, and inflammation. These beneficial fats can also be anti-inflammatory, improving overall immune function.       Deficiencies in omega-3s been linked to cardiovascular disease, some cancers, mood disorders, and arthritis.

It is also important that a woman consumes adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in her diet during pregnancy for proper development of the baby’s brain. Unfortunately, women have been told to avoid fish due to the threat of mercury toxicity. But, there are many types of fish that are high in omega-3s, but low in mercury that can still be safe for pregnant women. The Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of low mercury fish that are safe for pregnant women. A supplement may still be recommended for pregnant women—especially if they are not eating enough fish.

The research on fish oil has shown the greatest benefits are found with the consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as fish, walnuts, and chia. The same benefit has not been seen from supplementation alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends the consumption 1-2 servings of fish (200-500 mg of DHA and EPA per serving) per week to prevent heart disease and stroke. To put this number into perspective, a 3-ounce cooked salmon fillet contains over 1,500 mg of omega-3 fats. Wild Yellowfin Tuna, on the other hand, contains less than 200 mg of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving.

There is a large consensus that consuming an adequate amount of fatty fish, nuts, and seeds is the optimal way obtain an optimal amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. The numerous benefits of omega-3s from food have been well established in the current research. But, although foods may be perfectly safe and beneficial, there is a need for continued research on the safety and efficacy of supplements. Before consuming fish oil supplements, consult your doctor and/or dietitian to determine the best option for your health.

Health Benefits of Chia

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds seem to be sprouting up everywhere these days in a variety of health foods. Although the chia  seed seems like a “new” food, chia has actually been around for over 3500 years. Chia is a seed native to southern Mexico from a plant called Salvia hisipanica. In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seeds to give them strength for battle and relieve pain. The Aztecs also used chia as a high energy-density food they could consume during long travels or during times when food was not as readily available. Now much of the chia in the world is grown in Australia, instead of Mexico, and Australia may soon become the biggest producer of chia seeds internationally.

Chia has several health benefits. These powerful seeds contain a significant amount of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), even more than flax seeds. ALA may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and even symptoms of asthma. The seeds also have an extra benefit in that the omega-3 fat is protected by a large amount of antioxidants, which prevents the heart-healthy fat from becoming rancid.  Chia seeds are also very high in fiber, providing 10g per ounce.  Chia is a high calcium seed, as it provides 179 mg of calcium per serving. That’s not all for their nutritional benefits, they are also chock full of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc all of which are minerals vital to health.

Omega-3s and calcium have been shown to help with weight loss and chia seeds provide large doses of both nutrients. But chia seeds actually have an additional weight-loss boosting benefit other than their nutritional profile. When mixed with water, chia seeds grow to 10x their size, forming a gel that is high soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not digested by our bodies and therefore is calorie-free. The gel also grows in the stomach, making us feel full and leading to a reduced overall calorie consumption. Soluble fiber traps fat and cholesterol, possibly lowering calorie absorption from a meal. Less calories being absorbed, means less calories are stored as unwanted fat!

Not sure how to eat chia seeds? When mixed with water, they have a rubbery, gel- like consistency. Chia seeds are 100% gluten free so are safe to eat on a gluten or grain free diet. If you want to lose weight, add them to water or tea to help fill you up before a meal, so you feel full and eat less overall. Sprinkle them on salads, blend them into smoothies, or add them to your favorite soup as a thickener. Add them to hot cereal, yogurt, or grind them to add to muffins or breads. Many people use chia as an egg replacer in baked goods to add omega-3 fats and reduce cholesterol. As chia becomes more popular, you are sure to see it pop up in a variety of health foods and they are a great addition to any diet.

Here is a recipe for you adapted from Simple Bites. This recipe is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW SUGAR, LOW GLYCAEMIC and HIGH CALCIUM

 

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk (you can also use 1% cow’s milk)
  • 2 tbsp xylitol or Stevia (you can also use coconut sugar, agave, or honey- although these contain real sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a vigorous shake.
  2. Chill for about an hour, then return to the jar and shake it up. Let chill for at least 4 hours and overnight is even better.
  3. Chia seeds will expand and turn into pudding the consistency of applesauce (it won’t get really thick).
  4. Serve cold with sliced fruit or toasted nuts on top.