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Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet with Fish

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Updated February 15, 2014

Omega-3 fatty acids are always in the news, but do you really know what to eat to get them in your diet? Well, things are about to get fishy ... because if you want to get a dose of the healthy fat in your diet, it's time to serve up some seafood.

 

Why Seafood?

Seafood itself is naturally low in fat, and almost all seafood is low in cholesterol (shrimp is higher in cholesterol but still lower than many other meats in saturated fat). Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein and vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce serving of fish provides about 120 calories, on average.

While there are some types of fish pregnant and nursing women (including those who are looking to be pregnant) and small children should not eat due to high mercury levels, fish can be a healthful part of almost any diet. The American Heart Association recommends that we eat at least two servings each week.

Tip: Types of fish that are low in mercury include canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

 

How to Choose an Omega 3–Rich Fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in all types of seafood, but levels vary among different types of fish. Salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Trout, herring and sardines are also good choices.

Here are some common seafood choices and their omega-3 levels per 3-ounce serving:

 

  • light canned tuna: .17 to .24 grams
  • shrimp: .29 grams
  • pollock: .45 grams
  • mahi mahi: .13 grams
  • orange roughy: .028 grams
  • oysters: .37 - 1.14 grams
  • salmon: 1.1 - 1.9 grams
  • flounder: .48 grams
  • sole: .48 grams
  • halibut: .60 to 1.12 grams
  • herring: 1.9 to 2.0 grams

Tip: Freezing fish minimally affects its omega-3 levels, so if you freeze it to stock up, you'll reap nearly the same benefits from it as when it was fresh.

 

Preparation is Key

As with healthy eating in general, preparation method is key. Baked, broiled or grilled fish is always a good choice, but fried fish is not a good choice. Not only is fried fish higher in fat and calories, but deep frying could actually destroy some omega-3 levels due to high cooking temperature. Other healthful cooking methods for fish include steaming, stir-frying and sautéing, with little or no added fat. When preparing fish at home, cook it until it is flaky yet tender and shows no signs of translucency.

Tip: At restaurants, watch out for too much butter, and be sure to get sauces on the side (and use them in moderation).

 

Alternatives to Eating Fish for Omega-3

If you're a vegetarian, or you just don't like (or are allergic to types of) seafood, omega-3 is also found in other types of foods, such as leafy, green vegetables (spinach) and walnuts.

It is also possible to consume omega-3 as a supplement in capsule or liquid form. About.com's Nutrition guide has provided a good resource on this, Top Picks for Omega-3 Supplements.

Check out Calorie Count Plus to search the nutritional content of many types of fish and seafood.

Sources:

American Heart Association. Fish, Levels of Mercury and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Retrieved 23 June 2008.

American Heart Association. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Retrieved 23 June 2008.

Food and Drug Administration. FDA/EPA What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish. March 2004. Retrieved 22 June 2008.

 

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