By: Claire Chiasson, LDN, RDN, Thibodaux Regional Health System
What are Omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids (known as
Omega 3s) are a type of polyunsaturated, heart-healthy fat that provide a host
of health benefits. They are considered essential fatty acids because
they are necessary for human health. However, since the body cannot make
these fatty acids on its own, they must be consumed through food or supplements.
There are several types of Omega 3s, but the most common include eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
EPA and DHA are found mainly in fish and shellfish. ALA is derived from
plant foods and plant-based oils and is a precursor to EPA and DHA. Therefore,
it is advised to eat a wide variety of foods containing omega 3 fatty
acids to reap all of the benefits.
Why do we need omega 3 fatty acids?
These fats are a crucial component of all cell membranes, including our
eyes and brain, while also supporting major functions in our body involving
the heart, lungs, immune system, and hormones. Omega 3s have also been
shown to fight inflammation in the body, which is one of the underlying
causes of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis,
and heart disease. Omega 3s can even benefit a person’s mental health,
like fighting anxiety and depression!
Benefits for heart health
The strongest evidence regarding Omega 3 fatty acids and health is related
to heart disease. These healthy fats reduce the risk of cardiovascular
disease by lowering triglycerides and raising good cholesterol levels,
and they may help to lower blood pressure. Omega 3s are also shown to
fight inflammation in the body. Since heart disease involves inflammation
in the arteries, these fats are sure to play a role in the keeping the
body’s arteries healthy.
What foods contain omega 3 fatty acids?
ALA fatty acids are found in certain plant-based foods such as canola oil,
walnuts, and flaxseeds. DHA and EPA are found mainly in fatty fish like
salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring. The American heart association recommends
eating two servings per week of healthy fatty fish for heart health benefits.
Try to incorporate more Omega 3 food sources into your diet by adding
ground flaxseed to smoothies, or even sprinkling them on top of oatmeal,
yogurt, or salad. Also consider spreading avocado on top whole-wheat toast
and consuming fish twice a week. There are plenty of ways to incorporate
more Omega 3 fatty acids into a heart-healthy eating plan!
To get a jumpstart on your heart healthy diet, try this delicious walnut
crusted salmon recipe for a dose of Omega 3 fatty acids. Your heart and
taste buds will be sure to love it!
For more information or to schedule a nutrition consultation with a registered
dietitian, contact Thibodaux Regional Health System at 985-493-4765
WALNUT-ROSEMARY CRUSTED SALMON
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-pound skinless salmon fillet
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Combine mustard, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, honey, and
crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Combine panko, walnuts, and oil in
another small bowl.
- Place salmon on the baking sheet. Spread mustard mixture over the fish
and sprinkle with panko mixture. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
- Bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 8–12 minutes depending
Sprinkle with parsley if desired and enjoy!
Yields: four 3 oz servings
Nutrition Facts: Calories 222, Protein 24 grams, Carbohydrates 4 grams, Fat 12 grams (saturated
fat 2g) Cholesterol 62 mg, sodium 256 mg