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Good Fats for Heart Health - The Benefits of Omega 3 - Free Press by Marcia Kyle, RD, CDE

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (goal: 750 - 1,000 milligrams per day)

 Sources  Amount  Calories (1,000mg)
 Flaxseed oil  1/2 teasspon


 Ground Flaxseed  1 1/2 teaspoon


 Walnut halves  5


 Canola Oil  2 teaspoon


 Soybean Oil  1 Tablespoon


 Wheat Germ Oil  1 Tablespoon


 Salmon, herring, albacore,  sardine, rainbow trout, eel

 2 ounces


 Other fish contain some Omega 3, but not as much  9-12 ounces 


 Broccoli, cooked  5 cups


 Spinach, cooked  10 cups 


 Soy nuts  3/4 cup 


After reading an excellent review article from Emory University, Georgia, on the heart-protective benefits of a fat called omega 3, I decided to address an issue that concerns many nutrition professionals - have Americans gone too far in decreasing dietary fat, especially the good stuff? More to the point, in the pursuit of decreasing overall fat, are we getting enough of the fats essential to health?

Moderation does not mean elimination. Yet we are a country of no-fat salad dressing and non-fat cooking pans. When was the last time you ate a handful of nuts? Has the ease of cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts and the availability of leaner meats replaced our weekly fish meal?

Studies suggest that the quantity and the quality of dietary fat intake determine cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. And don't forget the reasons we need at least some dietary fat - the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. And let's not forget - fat carries flavor and makes us feel full!

The type of fat that has demonstrated heart-protective benefits is the omega 3 fatty acid. Several mechanisms explaining the cardioprotective effect have been suggested, including antiarrhythmic (keeps the heart beating normally), hypolipidemic (keeps fat in blood low), and antithrombotic (keeps blood flowing) roles. Fish is an important source of omega 3 in the American diet; however, vegetable sources, including grains and oils, offer an alternative source for those who are unable to regularly consume fish.

Americans currently get the bulk of their omega 3 from three key food groups: (1) meat, poultry and fish; (2) vegetable oils and salad dressings; and (3) grain products. Certain species of fatty cold-water fish, such as mackerel, herring and salmon, are good sources. Plant sources of omega 3 include some legumes, such as soy and pinto beans, along with nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and flaxseed.

As of yet the United States has not officially set guidelines for amount of consumption but several international guidelines have been published and most Americans fall short. You could start by eating one or two fish meals per week, with portions of two ounces, much smaller than the average American serving. However, if you only eat haddock or less fatty fish, the portion size can be as much as nine to 12 ounces.

For people in good health, it seems prudent to consume fish at least twice per week or to consider using oils or margarine (flaxseed and canola) as substitutes for existing cooking oils and salad dressings. These changes are consistent with the current National Cholesterol Education Program Step I diet and the October 2000 revision of the American Heart Association dietary guidelines. More trials are needed before recommending large changes in the consumption of fish supplements. In pursuit of a healthy diet, remember that some fat is good - moderation, not elimination, is the key. - Free Press