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Try essential fats for a healthy heart

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Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 5:00 pm

What if I told you that you may not be consuming enough of a nutrient that may decrease your chances of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent, improves memory and lessens your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease? You may wonder if it is too good to be true. In this case, it isn't. The nutrient is omega-3 fatty acid (or fish oil) and most of us do not consume enough of these each day.

Omega-3's are polyunsaturated fatty acids mostly found in high quantities in certain fish, nuts and oils. They are also known as essential fatty acids and are called "essential" because our bodies are not capable of making them and, therefore, they must be obtained through our diet. The current recommendation is 650 milligrams per day. A 2-ounce serving of salmon would provide this amount. Eating fish two to three times per week would meet your needs for Omega-3 fatty acids. The average person consumes fish about once every 10 days (average of 150 mg per day).

Specific foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, trout, herring, tuna, sardines, walnuts, almonds, tofu, canola oil and flaxseed oil. If you dislike fish you can supplement your diet with fish oil or flaxseed. These can be found at most health food stores and most Valley supermarkets. I would recommend the actual ground flaxseed over the oil because flaxseed has extra fiber where the oil has none. You can sprinkle the ground seed on salad or mix it into your oatmeal.

Many of us wait until we have a health problem to make changes. Here is your chance to start helping to prevent a possible health issue in the future. Next time you head out to the supermarket, try to purchase one or two items that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. All you need is two to three servings of fish a week to meet your needs. You may not notice a difference right away, but your body will.

Tips to increase your Omega-3 intake:

• Grilled salmon in canola oil. Serve with steamed vegetables.

• Add walnuts to your salad, baked potatoes or granola.

• Add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed to hot cereal or sprinkle on a salad.

• If you find it difficult to consume enough in your diet, you can purchase a fish oil supplement to add to food or liquids.

Michael Murphy is a registered dietitian and has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 10 years. Reach him at (480) 215-4458.

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