Chef Eric Stein, MS RD CCE

Wellness Chef | Registered Dietitian
Certified Culinary Educator

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Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with information about the importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our diet as well as its association with maintaining a healthy heart. But, it appears that the latest study on the subject contradicts many previous studies proving this very point.

Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) are essential fatty acids, meaning that we need to get those nutrients from our diet. Since both are metabolized by the same cells in our body, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 must be proportionate to the bodies' needs; otherwise we end up utilizing only omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 is much more prevalent in our food system, so it is vital to made an effort to consume omega-3's.

As with most nutrients, food should be your go to source over nutritional supplements, and consuming fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna and anchovies can help you elevate the omega-3's in your diet. Although fish oil supplements are sold over the counter, they are generally not recommended to individuals who are able to consume fish. Most supplements contain a disproportionate amount of fatty acids, may contain a concentrated amount of mercury, and most importantly, they may increase bleeding time and interfere with wound healing because omega-3 fatty acids can act as a blood thinner.

The most recent study on this topic was conducted by Sang Mi Kwak, MD, et al, and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that supplementation of omega-3 did not increase cardiovascular health among people who already have cardiovascular disease. So what does that mean for you? Frankly, it is better to eat the fish than to take the pill if you are not suffering from heart disease. In addition to their cardiovascular benefits, consuming foods high in omega-3 also help reduce inflammation.

Vegetarians, vegans, and non-fish eaters don't be alarmed; you can still maintain a healthy heart without consuming fish. There are a variety of omega-3 rich foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and omega-3 enriched eggs as well.

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