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Five Omega-3 Rich Foods for Heart Health


February is not only the month for sending valentines; it's also American Heart Month! Heart disease is a major problem—it's the number one leading cause of death in the U.S. This is alarming, but the good news is heart disease is preventable and controllable. Along with watching your sodium and saturated fat intake, it is a good idea to make sure you are eating plenty of food that contains omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many studied health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including lowering triglycerides and blood pressure, and decreasing the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids which reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and joints. Diets rich in omega-3 fats produce healthy, flexible cell membranes that can do their jobs well, such as holding water and vital nutrients and communicating with other cells correctly.

Try these five foods to add more omega-3's to your diet:

  1. Fatty Fish: The highest food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. Other sources include halibut and trout. Try broiling salmon with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper, or include tuna in sandwiches with low-sodium mayonnaise and sweet relish.
  2. Nuts & Seeds: Almonds​ and walnuts are high in omega-3's. Add chopped nuts to your oatmeal or cereal for an extra crunch. Nuts and seeds taste great on salads as well.
  3. Avocado: Slice and top salads, soups and casseroles. Add to smoothies to thicken or puree with garlic and parmesan for a quick pasta sauce.
  4. Flax Seeds: Make a smoothie with yogurt, banana, strawberries and a tablespoon of lemon-flavored flax seed oil, or include ground flax seeds in your home baked goods.
  5. Olive Oil: Use as a dipping sauce for freshly baked bread, drizzle over vegetables or blend with basil, garlic, walnuts and parmesan for a quick pesto.

Keep in mind that although these foods are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they are still high in calories so eat them in moderation. If you decide to use an omega-3 supplement, talk to your physician first. Omega-3 supplements can increase bleeding in people taking blood thinning medications.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Executive Chef Craig FordKitchen Tip of the Month

There's a lot of "hype" surrounding coconut oil. Claims tout the benefits for everything from weight loss to Alzheimer's disease. The truth is there isn't enough evidence to support all of these claims about its health benefits. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat—more than butter. Saturated fats are known to increase cholesterol and risk of coronary artery disease. Most of the fats you should eat should be from fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. If you like to use coconut oil, choose virgin coconut oil and use it in moderation.