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Nutrition Column

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Fish and fish oils have become a staple for heart disease treatment and prevention. Fish oils are high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

For the general public, the American Heart Association recommends 1,000 mg's (1 gram) of omega-3 fatty acids per day. For those with elevated triglycerides the AHA recommends between 2 to 4 grams per day. At that level they recommend consulting first with their physician since omega-3 FA's act similar to aspirin in decreasing clot formation and may lead to excessive bleeding, particularly in patients on Coumadin or similar blood thinners.

In fact, since September 2004 food labels have been allowed to include qualified statements about foods high in omega-3 FA's and reduced risk of heart disease.

Omega-3 FA's have also been linked to reduced depression, improved energy for individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and prostate cancer.

Besides fish, omega-3 FA's can also be found in select plant sources. The two most prevalent omega-3 FA's in fish are eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) and docosaheanoic acid (DHA), while alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most prevalent in select plants.

Below is a list of natural sources of ALA:

Flaxseed oil - 1 T. = 7,200 mg.
Walnuts - 1 ounce = 2,600 mg.
Flaxseed (ground) - 1 T. = 2,200 mg.
Walnut oil - 1 T. = 1,400 mg.
Canola oil - 1 T. = 1,300 mg.
Soybeans - 1 cup = 640 mg.

and EPA & DHA in 3.5 ounces of fish:

Herring - 2,000 mg.
Salmon - 1,800 - 2,100 mg.
Whitefish - 1,600 mg.
Mackerel - 1,200 mg.
Sardines - 1,000 - 1,200 mg.
Albacore Tuna (canned) - 900 mg.

Some fish with excellent omega:3 (n-3) to omega-6 (n-6) ratio's are:

Atlantic cod - 11 to 1
Mackerel - 7 to 1
Atlantic salmon - 3.9 to 1
Pacific salmon 16.7 to 1

Flax by the way, has a n-3 to n-6 ratio of 4 to 1. These foods will help to lower the presently high ratio commonly found in most vegetable oils or animal fats.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 3.16.06