Getting your Omega-3 fats:

The omega-3 fats are crucial to your health. Omega-3 fats are exactly what they sound like: fats that we need to have for our health and well-being. Most notably are the members of the omega-3 fats that are usually referred to as DHA and EPA.

Omega-3 fats are believed to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammatory disease and even depression. They contribute to keeping your blood thin, regulating blood sugar, reducing blood pressure and enhancing the immune function of the body. They are also believed to aid the body in the metabolism of fat.

The human body has the ability to transform the fats we eat and the fats we make from carbohydrates to the fats we need in the different tissues. The human body lacks, however, the specific enzymes to convert other fats to omega-3 fats. Plants have these enzymes, so the only way to get omega-3 fats is directly from plants or by eating those animals that have eaten such plants.

The omega-3 fats we get from plants are not the exact fats that we need. We actually need EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). As long as we get omega-3 fats in our diet, our body can transform the omega-3 fats we eat into EPA and DHA. We can also get the EPA and DHA directly by eating animals that already have converted omega-3 fats to EPA and DHA.

Good sources of EPA and DHA are coldwater, fatty fish including sardines, salmon, mackerel anchovies, cod, sea bass and herring. Be aware that farm-raised fish doesn't have the same levels of these fats as wild fish of the same kind. Choosing a small fish, like a sardine, which is low on the food chain might be the best choice, since smaller fish dont accumulate toxins to the same extent as larger fish. To add even more health value in a meal, choose sardines that have been canned in healthy olive oil. Try to have at least three servings of cold water fish per week.

An alternative to eating fish is to supplement the diet with cod liver oil or fish oil capsules, which are rich in omega-3 fats. These capsules tend to go rancid very quickly, so be sure they are of good quality. Rancid fish oils are actually dangerous to consume. Bite into one every other day to make sure they haven't gone rancid.

Flaxseed oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fats in nature. Other good sources include various green leafy vegetables and walnuts. Flaxseed oil is like fish oil in that it is quite unstable, so it needs to be carefully refrigerated. An alternative is to consume the actual seed itself. Flaxseeds contain all the anti-oxidants needed to naturally keep the oil fresh within the seed until it is cracked open. Unbroken flaxseeds just pass right through us. For our bodies to digest flaxseeds, the hull or the shell must be broken. You can grind the seeds in a blender or food processor and sprinkle it on just about everything. When ground together with some sunflower seeds, flaxseeds have a nutty flavour and go well on salads, cereals and cooked vegetables. Avoid boiling flaxseeds since this turns them into a slimy mess. You can add prepared flaxseeds to pancakes, bread and other baking recipes. Be creative. Good luck!

Ariel, Personal Trainer, World Class Health Academy

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