How to Get More Omega-3 Foods in Your Diet

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to boost your heart health in many ways, including helping lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and boosting good HDL cholesterol. Here?s how to get the most out of this heart-saving nutrient.

By Staci Hockemeyer, R.D., L.D., Photos by Blaine Moats, Food Styling by Dianna Nolin


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    Almost every American adult should eat omega-3 fatty-acid fish -- tuna, salmon, or trout -- at least twice a week for heart health. In fact, several clinical trials have shown omega-3 reduces the risk of heart attack by 19-45 percent. It also:

    -- lowers blood pressure

    -- lowers triglycerides

    -- combats atherosclerosis

    -- reduces the prevalence of some dangerous arrhythmias

    That's powerful motivation for increasing your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Read on for practical and affordable ways to get it done.

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How Much Omega-3 Do You Need?

    To prevent heart disease: Eat at least two 4-ounce servings of fatty fish a week. Or take a 500 mg fish-oil pill daily.

    If you have heart disease: Double that -- four servings of fatty fish or a 1 g fish-oil pill daily, after consulting your doctor.

    If you have high triglycerides: LovazTM, an FDA-approved prescription fish-oil pill of 3-4 g, daily is recommended to lower triglycerides between 20 and 50 percent.

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How to Pick a Supplement

    Fish-oil capsules: Look for a pill with at least 500 mg of EPA/DHA, the kinds of omega-3 most effective in fighting heart disease.

    The pills are made from fish oil that is molecularly distilled to make it tasteless and remove contaminants.

    Side effect: A "fish burp" a few hours after taking the pill is the most common side effect. To avoid the burp, choose "enteric-coated" capsules or freeze regular capsules. Taking the supplement with a full meal also can help avoid a fishy aftertaste.

    Caution: If you're on blood thinners, consult your doctor about the dosage of a fish-oil supplement to avoid bleeding.

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Tuna

    You may be reluctant to eat more tuna because of concerns about environmental contaminants such as mercury. Smart shopping can reduce your risk.

    Buy Tuna Safely at the Supermarket

    Fresh or frozen: Fresh (or frozen) tuna steaks are the best low-sodium choice. Choose fresh tuna that has an "ocean" smell. The flesh should be moist and have no brown spots.

    Skipjack tuna is the safest choice for lower environmental contamination.

    Canned: Canned tuna or vacuum-packed tuna in a pouch should be a pantry staple.

    "Chunk light tuna" packed in water is the healthiest choice.

    Canned white or albacore may have more contaminants, but can be eaten safely two or three times a month.

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Ordering Tuna at a Restaurant

    Unlike salmon, you don't have to know where a tuna was raised to know whether it's safe. Ask the server what species of tuna is available. Skipjack is safest.

    When ordering sushi or sashimi, the Yellowfin and Bigeye tuna that are commonly labeled 'Ahi' tuna is the safest alternative. Avoid Bluefin tuna.

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How to Store and Cook Tuna

    How to Store Tuna

    Unwrap fresh tuna when you get home from the store and pat dry with a paper towel. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place on the lowest shelf in your fridge.

    How to Cook Tuna

    Rinse and pat dry. On a greased broiler pan, broil 4 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork; turn once halfway through cooking.

    One pound raw tuna yields three 4-ounce servings of cooked fish.

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Salmon

    You can't judge salmon's purity on whether it was wild or farm-raised. Contaminants such as PCBs vary based on pollution in the water in which it swam.

    Buy Salmon Safely at the Supermarket

    Fresh or Frozen: Fresh salmon gives slightly when pressed. If scales are present, they should be shiny and tight.

    Wild Atlantic salmon is better than farmed. Farmed Chilean salmon is also preferred. Look for the words "wild Alaskan," "pink," "chum," or "sockeye" for salmon that is lower in contaminants. Coho, Chinook pink, and arctic char also are good choices.

    Don't eat farmed Atlantic or wild Pacific salmon from California, Washington, and Oregon more than twice a month.

    Canned: Convenient and affordable; the sodium content of canned or in-a-pouch salmon will be higher. Look for canned pink salmon, or Chinook salmon. Canned salmon is usually wild, not farmed.

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Ordering Salmon at a Restaurant

    You may have to be persistent in asking what kind of salmon is on the menu. Ask to speak to the chef if you don't feel the server can give you enough information.

    Order the fish grilled or broiled, and trim away the skin before eating. Although salmon skin is loaded with omega-3s and nutrients, it is also a primary place for contaminants to settle.

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How to Store and Cook Salmon

    How to Store Salmon

    Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel when you get home from the store. Wrap in plastic with one or two lemon slices and place on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator. Freeze cooked salmon; steaming to reheat keeps it moist.

    How to Cook Salmon

    Rinse and pat dry. Place fish on the greased unheated rack of a broiler pan, tucking under thin edges. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through cooking.

    Cooking Tips

    Certain cooking tips can reduce the amount of PCB chemicals you consume in salmon. The chemicals are absorbed and store in the fish's fatty tissue, which is also where the omega-3s are:

    -- Salmon skin can contain more contaminants, so remove it after cooking.

    -- Grill or broil salmon to allow the fat to drain away.

    -- Trim any visible fat from the cooked salmon.

    Salmon Recipes:

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Trout

    Most of the trout in the U.S. food supply comes from farming operations with strict environmental standards.

    At the Supermarket: The most common variety is Rainbow Trout, which mostly is raised in Idaho. The levels of mercury and PCB contamination are very low, so it is safe to enjoy trout four or more times per month.

    Dining Out: Consider ordering trout when dining out if you don't prepare it often at home. It's an easy way to inject some variety into your weekly consumption of omega-3s. Order a 6- to 8-ounce portion, eat half, and take the rest home for another meal.

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More Sources of Omega-3s

    If you're no fan of fish but still want the health benefit of 500 mg a week of omega-3 fats, there are a growing number of omega-3 fortified foods on the market.

    Maramor Dark Chocolate Squares

    Omega-3 amount: 315 milligrams (mg) per serving

    Where to buy: GNC stores or maramor.com

    Price: $14.99 for a box of 30

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Orange Juice

    Tropicana Healthy Heart with Omega-3

    Omega-3 amount: 50 mg per serving

    Where to buy: Grocery stores nationwide or tropicana.com

    Price: $3.49 for a 64-ounce carton

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Bars

    Aristo Wellness Bars

    Omega-3 amount: 100 mg per serving

    Where to buy: aristohealth.com

    Price: $1.89 each

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Seafood

    Trans-Ocean Crab Classic Crab-Flavored Surimi Seafood

    Omega-3 amount: 100 mg per serving

    Where to buy: Grocery stores nationwide or trans-ocean.com

    Price: $2.99-$3.99 per bag, depending on variety

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Beet Juice

    Luvli Juices Mega Beet

    Omega-3 amount: 50 mg per serving

    Where to buy: Whole Foods Market or luvlijuices.com

    Price: $1.99-$2.25 for a 10-ounce bottle

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