Friday, February 20, 2009

Omega 3's...what you need to know

You've probably heard of them...Omega 3's...they are a hot item in the nutrition world and food industry these days. Lots of products are being fortified (milk, eggs, yogurt, mayonnaise, bread to name a few) and you may know someone taking fish oil supplements...all in the name of omega 3's. But how much do you really know about them??? Here is a summary to get you up to speed.

What are they: Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that we need in our diet. The three most nutritionally important omega 3's are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We can not make ALA and must get it through food/supplements. However, our bodies can convert the ALA from our diet into the other 2 - EPA and DHA.

Why you need them: Omega 3's can help lower blood pressure, lower blood triglycerides, and prevent cardiovascular disease...heart attack and stroke (there are other possible benefits too, but more scientific evidence is needed to be sure).

Where you get them: ALA - flaxseed, walnuts (and walnut oil), soybeans, canola oil, and some dark green leafy vegetables; EPA and DHA - mostly from cold-water fish including salmon, tuna, halibut, and herring (and certain types of algae...yum!)

How do I get enough omega 3's? I eat walnuts and flaxseed (ground) in my oatmeal, sometimes use walnut oil when making salad dressing, put walnuts on my salad, cook with canola oil, and try to eat fish (salmon and tuna) often...I could probably do this more! (the American Heart Association recommends fish 2 times per week) I also eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables.

Here is an article on fish oil supplements, omega 3's in the supermarket, and omega 3's in general. For more info you can read this too.

All of the following recipes use salmon/flax/walnuts...enjoy! Dad, this is right up your alley...maybe for a date night??

Alaska Salmon and Three Bean Salad -
  • Per serving - 382 calories, 17 g fat (3 g saturated), 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 28 g protein (exchanges: 3 ½ fat, 3 ½ protein, 1 starch, 2 vegetable)
  • Notes - I would probably add more than 12 cherry tomatoes; you could use Dijon mustard too

Salmon Teriyaki Skewers with Pineapple -

  • Per serving - 273 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 29 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 26 g protein (exchanges: 1 fat, 4 protein, ½ starch, 1 fruit)
  • Notes - I only used 2 teaspoons (not tablespoons) of oil to save calories...and I used sesame, but canola would work too; I used rice wine vinegar (which I always have on hand) as opposed to the mirin; I would probably use ½ of a pineapple and add red bell peppers to the skewers instead; keep an eye on the salmon…you don’t want to overcook it!

Grilled Salmon with Mustard Sauce -

  • Per serving - 236 calories, 8.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 36 g protein (exchanges: 1 ½ fat, 5 protein)

Salmon with Sweet & Spicy Rub -

  • Per serving - 280 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated), 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 34 g protein (exchanges: 2 ½ fat, 5 protein)
  • Notes - You could serve this with Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes; instead of grilling you could use the broiler

One-Pot Salmon with Snap Peas and Rice -

  • Per serving - 418 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated), 49 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 32 g protein (exchanges: 2 fat, 2 ½ starches, 4 protein, ½ vegetable )
  • Notes - If you make this recipe with brown rice instead of white (which would be a good idea), make sure you cook the rice according to the package will take more water and cooking time; don't use instant will turn mushy

Oatmeal with Apples, Hazelnuts, and Flaxseed -

  • Per serving - 258 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated), 36 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 10 g protein (exchanges: 1 ½ fat, 2 ½ starches, ½ milk, ½ fruit)
  • Notes - If you're like me and aren't a big fan of hazelnuts, just substitute with any other nut (maybe walnuts to boost the omega 3's!)

Morning Glory Muffins -

  • Per serving - 186 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 35 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 4 g protein (exchanges: 1 fat, 2 ½ starches, ½ fruit)
  • Notes - This would be a perfect breakfast if you added a glass of milk or 6 oz of yogurt (for a little protein!) and a piece of fruit…all for around 325 calories!; freeze leftover muffins so you have them on-hand for a quick breakfast; I bake with whole wheat pastry's a little "softer" than regular whole wheat flour; the wheat bran is optional


Happy Mardi Gras!!!


  1. Hi - I just found your blog through the Sherbet Blossom website, and I love your blog! I love reading about healthy food and trying new recipes. (If I could do it all over again, I'd have studied nutrition in undergrad instead of business/finance!) I noticed on your website that you eat a lot of steel-cut oats; I've never had great success making a great batch. Do you have a recipe you could share that's not an overnight version or is that the best you've found? Thanks!

  2. Terilyn,

    I'm glad you like the blog.

    I usually cook all of my oatmeal ahead of time, but esp steel cut oat, because they take a little longer to cook.

    One recipe for SC oats that I've tried and liked is from Martha Stewart Living:

    It calls for toasting the oats first, but I sometimes skip that step.

    The McCann's website also has some ideas:

    Hope this helps!