A great source of healthy omega-3 fats, fish is one of the most beneficial foods we eat. But most people don't take advantage of it. To maintain good health, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings per week of fatty fish, but according to a study of 21,675 people published in Neurology, fewer than one in four Americans over the age of 45 eats that much.
When Americans do eat fish, it's often fried-and that can be a health hazard. For instance, the Neurology study found that residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana-the so-called "stroke belt" where deaths from stroke are the highest in the country-were 30 percent more likely to eat fried fish than people living in other areas. In contrast, eating non-fried fatty fish twice per week can halve the risk of strokes and heart attacks, according to research published in Circulation and other journals.
Fish Oil Supplements
As an alternative to fish dishes-and for additional, therapeutic levels of healthy fats-fish oil supplements provide the two key omega-3s: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
These omega-3s control the chronic internal inflammation that underlies heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other ills ranging from PMS to rheumatoid arthritis. More than 8,000 human studies have been carried out on fish oil, showing that it helps improve a variety of conditions including depression, ADHD, elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, age-related hearing and vision problems, dry eye, and asthma. It also reduces risk for breast cancer, improves brain function, and helps control stress, maintain healthy weight, improve skin health, and slow the aging process.
Krill Oil Supplements
Krill are tiny shrimplike creatures eaten by whales and small fish. The EPA/DHA content in krill is only about 14 percent, compared to about 30 percent in fish oil. However, the structure of krill fat makes it more absorbable, so a smaller amount may be all that's required, according to a review of human studies in Alternative Medicine Review.
The EPA/DHA in krill is bound to phospholipids-fat-like substances that make up cell membranes in both krill and humans-and this enhances delivery of the omega-3s to our cells. Plus, krill oil naturally contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.
The research review found that, in addition to reducing inflammation, "Preliminary human studies indicate krill oil may be superior to fish oil in the reduction of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) complications and biomarkers of dyslipidemia" (unhealthy levels of blood fats).
Best Fish Sources
High levels of omega-3 fats are found in coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna, but mercury content is a concern. Wild salmon and other small fish have shorter life spans than large ones and don't accumulate dangerous levels of mercury. Skipjack in "light" canned tuna is also a small, low-mercury fish, but it naturally contains less overall and omega-3 fat than the others.
Albacore tuna, in solid canned tuna, may be large or small, depending on the age at which it was caught. Because of its natural migratory habits, albacore caught off the west coast of the US is young and small, with low levels of mercury, and fishing practices in the region are sustainable. Omega-3 levels in albacore might naturally be higher than those of salmon, but may be depleted during fish processing. So content varies among brands. A total fat content of 5 g or more per 2-oz serving (without added olive oil or other added fat) indicates that natural omega-3 fats have been retained.
To choose low-mercury, high omega-3 canned albacore, look for fish caught in US (not Hawaii) or Canadian Pacific waters with naturally high fat content. Some brands, such as Wild Planet (www.wildplanetfoods.com), describe their fishing and handling methods and specify omega-3 content on labels.
Barlean's fresh catch fish oil softgels are a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement in the convenience of a softgel (with a pleasant orange flavor to prevent a fishy aftertaste).
Doctor's best real krill provide EPA and DHA from Antarctic krill oil plus additional EPA and DHA from fish oil-the perfect marriage of omega-3 fatty acids. Take one to three softgels per day.
New Chapter wholemega prenatal gives you peace of mind during your pregnancy. Also great during breast-feeding, this 100% wild-caught salmon oil has omega- 3,5,6,7, and 9 fats.