Guest Author: Brittany Cines
As I am on vacation cruising through Alaska, I can certainly say that I have had my fair share of omega-3s for the week. While there are many sources of omega fatty acids, fish is just one of them.
When considering the three macronutrients, fats don’t typically get a lot of credit. However, it is important to keep in mind that they are a source of energy, in addition to protein and carbohydrates. In fact, fat provides 9 calories per gram of energy, while protein and carbohydrates provide just 4. Fats are also beneficial because they help us maintain healthy skin and hair, absorb our fat-soluble vitamins, and provide us with essential fatty acids. While fat is an extremely valuable nutrient, not all fats are considered equal!
Most of our fat should come from unsaturated fats, because unlike saturated fats, these help lower our blood cholesterol. The two types include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3s and omega-6s are a type of polyunsaturated fat. They are known as essential fatty acids, meaning they must be obtained from food because the body does not create them for us. Therefore, it is our job to monitor our diets to ensure we are consuming enough of each.
The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids are of most concern. Omega-3s are found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, herring, and mackerel. While we aren’t all fortunate enough to be surrounded by an abundance of fresh fish like in Alaska, there are in fact other sources of omega-3s. Dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, walnuts, and vegetable oils, such as soybean, canola, and flaxseed oil also contain this popular fatty acid. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are enormous. For instance, omega-3s are good for our heart, prevent inflammation and blood clotting, lower our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower the risks and symptoms for many diseases, including diabetes, stroke, cancer, etc.
Let’s not forget the other essential fatty acid, omega-6. While omega-6s are just as important as the omega-3s, most of us consume adequate amounts in our diets that we do not need to be as cautious. Some of the positive effects of omega-6 fatty acids include their role in brain function, growth and development, skin and hair growth, metabolism regulation, and maintenance of the reproductive system.
In order for the essential fatty acids to work properly in our body we must have a balance of the two. To ensure this healthy ratio, it is recommended that Americans eat fish at least twice per week. If we are unable to consume enough omega-3s through food sources, fish oil supplements can be taken, although they are not the preferred form. Monitor your intake of essential fatty acids before something in your body begins to smell fishy!
My passion for cooking really began when my mom signed me up for my first cooking classes at the age of 8. My love for food and cooking continued to grow stronger as I took every child, teen and adult class that was offered at my cooking school. Towards the end of high school, I expanded my love for cooking as I started to develop an interest in healthy eating. I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Dietetics. Throughout college, I held a job as a Student Nutritionist for the University of Maryland Dining Services, and I interned at The National Institutes of Health, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, as well as at Suburban Hospital. In the fall I will begin my Dietetic Internship at the National Institutes of Health. Following the completion of this yearlong internship I plan to sit for my certification examination, in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD). I am so excited to be involved with this blog, because it fits in perfectly with my passion, and it allows me to share some of the topics I have learned about in my nutrition courses and throughout work experiences.
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