Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fish Food for Thought

by Krystle Neidig Penn State Dietetic Intern – Class of 2012 Why is fish consumption important? Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, a good form of fat that has been linked to many heart healthy benefits including lowered blood pressure, decrease in blood clots, and lower amounts of plaque formation in the arteries. There are 3 omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is an essentialfatty acid, which means that the body cannot make its own and that it must come from food sources. Major food sources of ALA are vegetable oils such as canola,soybean, and flaxseed oil. Walnuts and dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli are also good sources of ALA. In general, Americans tend to consume plenty of ALA food sources. A common misconception is that you can meet requirements for omega-3 fatty acids by only consuming sources of ALA. This is not true because it’s important for your body to have other types of omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA and DHA, too.EPA and DHA are less commonly found in the American diet. The important thing to remember is that the main food source of EPA and DHA is fatty fish. It is important to remember that there are certain precautions to take with fish consumption. Some fish are harmful to our health because they contain high levels of contaminants. Avoid larger species such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel due to the fact that they are high in mercury. Fish that have been found to have the lowest mercury levels include anchovies, salmon, trout, tilapia, oysters, sardines, and tuna (canned light chunk).Other common contaminants are PCBs and dioxins, which have been linked to cancer and developmental problems in children. Consumers are also advised to use caution with local fish consumption due to the fact that fish from smaller, local bodies of water tend to be higher in contaminants. If you are interested in learning more about fish consumption advisories, you can find the FDA and EPA consumer advisories for fish online at the following websites: Not into eating fish? No problem, because there are other options out there! Fish oil is a dietary supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish. Some feel that fish oil supplements leave a fishy aftertaste, but “burp-less” and flavored varieties are available. If you have a fish allergy, it is best to contact your doctor if you are considering fish oil supplementation in case of an allergic reaction. Individuals with implanted defibrillators as well as those on prescription blood thinners must also contact their doctor to prevent excessive thinning of the blood. Another reminder- dosage should always be discussed with your doctor because it’s different for everyone. DHA can be derived from algae and seaweed- an option for vegetarians and vegans out there!One juice brand offers a Pomegranate Blueberry juice blend that has been fortified with DHA from an algal source. The goal amount for DHA and EPA combined is 1750 mg weekly or an average of 250 mg DHA/EPA daily. This particular juice provides 50 mg DHA per 8 fluid ounce serving. However, you must be aware that each 8 fluid ounce serving is 120 calories and contains 29 g sugar-it’s not a low calorie, low sugar choice! Before your next trip to the grocery store, take a look at the consumer advisories for fish to get an idea of what’s both healthy and safe.Make a conscious effort to include sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet-especially EPA and DHA. And remember, if you’re not a fish person, there are other options out there. Take advantage of the heart healthy benefits omega-3 fatty acids have to offer!

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