Thursday, 21 March 2013

Week 12 Nutrition Habit: Fish Oils

No doubt you have heard about the health benefits of omega 3 fats, but are you actually consuming enough? If not, your health, performance and body composition will not be what it could be. In week 12 of the 52 Weeks to Better Nutrition and a New You series, it is time to ensure you are on track for this.


Here are just a few examples of some of the health benefits you can get from fish oil:

Health Benefits of Fish Oils
The human body needs certain fatty acids - we call them essential fatty acids. Two of them are EPA & DHA - both of which are from fish oils. One the reasons there is so much positive health effects to fish oil in the research is that the average North American is getting so little in their diet. When you correct a deficiency, you get tremendous benefits. In the case of fish oils, you are improving the quality of the cell membrane which is made up of fat and thus improving health at the cellular level. There are numerous health benefits to fish oils which include: lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol, stronger immune system, improved skin health, improved brain function, improved insulin sensitivity and joint lubrication.

Performance Benefits of Fish Oils
When your body is healthier, inflammation is reduced, your joints feel good and you recover faster your performance will be enhanced.

Body Composition Benefits of Fish Oils
Fish oil seems to help build muscle and burn fat. A large part of this is likely due to the fact that you can train harder and recover faster when your health is better and inflammation is reduced. Also, the improved insulin sensitivity is very helpful for fat loss. High insulin levels tells your body to store fat and improving insulin sensitivity means less is need to get the job done. I have found fish oils helpful in getting and staying lean. It is also worth noting for the aesthetically-minded that fish oil is great for your skin!

Don't take my word for it!
In my sport nutrition class, I give my students and in-class activity that I challenge you to do: go to PubMed (a free online website with access to medical journal abstracts and articles) and investigate the benefits of fish oil for yourself.

Application

Eat Fish
My recent Salmon Dinner
This week, is to adopt a habit of having wild fish (e.g. salmon) at least once this week. If you are like me, you would much rather eat chicken or beef than fish, but it is worth the effort. Bake, broil, barbecue - whatever you prefer. I claim no cooking expertise, therefore I will not offer any cooking tips other than to experiment, to ensure not to over-cook fish (as I have done countless times) and to seek advice from a real chef.

On the rare occasion that we do go to a restaurant, I will often get wild salmon if it is on the menu. This usually means a more enjoyable fish meal than I can cook at home with my limited cooking skills. I challenge you to do the same if you are eating out this week.

Consider Fish Oil Supplementation
You may also choose to get a fish oil supplement. Reasons for supplementation can include: cost-effectiveness (wild salmon can be pricey), convenience and to reduce the risk of getting heavy metals from eating too much fish, I personally have been supplementing my diet with about 6-10 grams of fish oil per day for almost 10 years now. The purpose of this blog has never been to push a particular supplement. Therefore, I'm not going to recommend any one particular brand. However, with the popularity of omega-3 supplements, there are many products on the market and they can range in quality. If you choose to supplement with fish oil, here are some things to consider when choosing a particular brand:

  • Wild caught
  • Small fish
  • Purity (look for things like molecular-distilled, pharmaceutical grade, ultra purified)
  • High levels of EPA & DHA

What about vegans or those with fish allergies?
The best plant-based omega-3 supplement is algae oil. This is where the fish get their omega-3's from. If I was a vegan or allergic to fish, I would use an algae oil supplement.

Add some omega-3 fish oils to your diet and enjoy the benefits!

Here are the links to the previous 2013 weekly habits in case you missed them:
Week 1: Kitchen Cleanout (at the end of the introduction to this series)

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