: Fish-Free Omega-3s
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for overall well-being abound -- the body of research supporting their role in brain, joint, eye, mood, and particularly cardiovascular health continues to grow.
February is American Heart Month, and it's the perfect time to incorporate these healthy fats into your diet. The American Heart Association recommends making fish and fish oil supplements part of your daily regimen. But what if you're allergic to fish?
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the protein in fish-derived omega-3 supplements is thought to be minimal, and likely denatured. In a recent study, six people who were allergic to fish were given two different brands of fish oil supplements. The review did not uncover any reports of allergic reactions. However, since this study was extremely small and only tested two brands of fish oil, these results should be interpreted with caution.
A shellfish allergy shouldn't prevent you from safely taking fish oil supplements. But if you're allergic to fish, it may be safer to err on the side of caution. Fortunately there are plenty of fish-free options for omega-3s.
Opt for omega-3 supplements that are derived from algae. Similar to fish oil, algae supplements will provide EPA and DHA, the long-chain fatty acids that are the keys to maintaining cardiovascular health. Just be sure that the product states on the label that the capsule shell is vegan.
Andrew Weil, MD, recommends adding freshly ground flaxseeds to your diet to get enough omega-3s without taking fish oil supplements. Plant-based sources contain the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The body converts some ALA to DHA and EPA, but studies show that ALA itself has beneficial effects on heart health.
Buy whole flaxseeds at your natural products store, keep them in the fridge, and grind them in a blender or grinder a half-cup at a time. Sprinkle them on cereal, salad, oatmeal, rice, or cooked veggies.
As long as you don't have a nut allergy, walnuts are a delicious source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts have been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol. Use walnuts in cooking, sprinkle them on salad, and grab a handful as a snack. Also look for walnut oil at your natural market.