Good Fat, Bad Fat: The Facts About Omega-3
Think all dietary fat is the same? Guess again
How to Get What You Need
Omega-3 fatty acids are not one single nutrient, but a collection of
several, including eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).
Both are found in greatest abundance in coldwater fish -- and that, say
experts, is one reason so many of us are deficient.
Over the past several years, the Food and Drug Administration and other
groups have issued warnings about mercury and other harmful chemicals found in
fish. This has led many people to stop eating fish -- a big mistake, Tansman
"People have taken the whole FDA advisory out of context including who
it's for, which is primarily pregnant women, and small children," she says.
Moreover, Tansman says, even if you obey the FDA warnings in the strictest
sense, the latest advisory says that up to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each
week is safe for everyone. That amount, Tansman reminds us, is roughly half of
what we need to get enough omega-3s.
"The recommendation [for omega-3s] is two servings of fish a week,"
Tansman says. "At 3 to 4 ounces per serving, that's well below the FDA's
safe limit of 12 ounces per week."
According to the American Heart Association, those looking to protect their
hearts should eat a variety of types of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and
mackerel) at least twice a week. Those with heart disease should get 1 gram of
omega-3s (containing both EPA and DHA) per day, preferably from fatty fish.
About 1.5 ounces of fish contains 1 gram of omega-3s.
But even if you don't like fish (or choose not to eat it), you can still get
what you need from dietary sources. WebMD Weight Loss Clinic "Recipe
Doctor" Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, says one answer lies in plants rich in
omega-3s -- particularly flaxseed.
"It's safe to say this is the most potent plant source of omega-3,"
says Magee, author of The Flax Cookbook. While flaxseed contains no EPA
or DHA, Magee says, it's a rich source of another omega-3 known as
alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can use to make EPA and DHA.