One of my most important health recommendations for nutritional intake, that helps to improve your overall health and prevent chronic disease, is to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The most commonly known benefit of omega-3s is a reduced risk of heart disease, but you also need it for normal brain function and for the health of your immune system. Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, poor circulation, mood swings or depression.
Your body cannot produce this fat itself, which is why we call it essential. Fish, and fish oil are the obvious choices for many people. Wild fatty fishes such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are my favourite choices, as they have some of the highest concentration of omega 3's per gram, and can be made into many wonderful meals.
Many people's diet is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and most of the omega 3 they do get, come from the alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Whereas most of the beneficial effects of omega-3 come from the other two omega 3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. Because our liver do not convert ALA to DHA and EPA very efficiently, very little ALA is converted to EPA and DHA. So you really need to make sure that most of your omega 3 contain those specific two fatty acids.
Flaxseeds and chia seeds are often mentioned as good sources of omega 3, and they are, only that they only contain the ALA, the plant-based omega 3 version. The ALA is converted into the more beneficial EPA and DHA in moderate quantity, but the fatty acids from fish seem to be the superior as science has it for the moment. More studies are needed on ALA, and I'm sure we'll see more of it soon. It is estimated that your body can convert only 5-10% of ALA to EPA and 2-5% to DHA. In other words, you need a much larger intake of flax or chia seeds to convert it to the other essential fatty acids.
Whole foods will always be my first option for nutrition, and I only supplement with supplements when absolutely needed. Which is why I choose wild fish instead of fish oil or fish oil pills. Fish not only have the omega 3 content, but are also full of protein, B vitamins, iodine, selenium, vitamin D, and plenty more vitamins and minerals depending on the species.
Most health organisations recommend 250-500 milligrams of EPA and DHA combined each day. Whereas if you suffer from depression, anxiety, heart problems or cancer, you may benefit from much higher doses, up to 4000 mg per day. 2 servings of 100 grams of fish (preferably oily) each week is a good start. That equals around 500 milligrams of EPA/DHA each day.
You should also make sure to have a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, where too much omega 6 is associated with worsening of inflammation over time. As long as you avoid processed foods, trans fats, conventionally raised poultry and meat, and mostly eat organic whole foods with two servings of fish per week or a good omega 3 fish oil, you will have no problem with your omega 3 to omega 6 balance.
Spirulina and other algae have all of the omega 3's needed, if you are vegan or do not like to eat fish for other reasons.
This wonderfully fresh and simple quinoa salad will give you approximately 50% of your weekly recommended intake of omega 3. Serves 4.
2 cups / 4 dl quinoa
4 cups / 8 dl water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1,5 tsp good quality salt, such as Celtic or Himalayan
1,5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
0,5 tsp cardamom
300 g smoked mackerel
300 g lettuce
300 g swiss chard
1/2 lemon medium or large, freshly pressed (or 1 small)
2 tbsp flaxseed oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp kelp
Quinoa: Warm a pan on medium heat. Add coconut oil, salt and spices. You want to release the aroma from the spices, but not burn, so mix continuously. Pour in the washed quinoa, mix and let flavours blend well with the quinoa. Let toast for a minute or so, while stirring to not burn. Pour over the water, raise the heat, put a lid on, bring to boil. When it has just started boiling, bring down heat to low, and let simmer until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep the lid on for ten minutes. Let then sit until serving. Do not stir as stirring while hot makes quinoa mushy.
Mackerel salad: Cut up lettuce and swiss chard finely. There is such difference to texture in salad that has large leaves of salad in it, compared to one that is finely cut. Most often I prefer the delicate feeling of eating a well cut salad. Slice up the radishes. Toss with lemon juice, flax or olive oil, and salt. Sprinkle kelp flakes over. Blend it all with the quinoa, or serve it side by side as in the photo.