Healthy fats

I know fish is healthy but I don’t like it. Can I take fish-oil capsules instead?

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Healthy omega-3 fats found in fish should be a regular part of your diet. The best way to reel them in is to eat two 85-gram servings (each the size of a deck of cards) of higher-fat fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and rainbow trout, every week. A fish-oil capsule, which also contains omega-3s, is a good alternative for people who just can’t tolerate fish. Here’s what you need to know:

Mega protection

Omega-3 fats decrease the risk of irregular heartbeats that can trigger a heart attack. Also, by reducing the stickiness of your blood, they cut the risk of forming blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. They also lower triglycerides, plaque buildup on artery walls and arterial inflammation—essential for keeping heart disease at bay.

Feed your brain Omega-3s are especially abundant in the brain and appear crucial for optimal brain functioning. They may significantly lower your risk of depression, including postpartum depression, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Fight cancer Preliminary research suggests these fats inhibit abnormal cell growth and reduce the risk of breast, lung and colon cancers.

Combat inflammation Fish-oil capsules are also used to treat inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

Can’t beat the real thing

The best reason to eat fish as opposed to just popping a fish-oil pill is all the other good stuff it contains. Higher-fat fish is rich in protein and nutrients, such as niacin, selenium and vitamins B12 and D. Don’t like the taste? Experiment with new recipes that include spices you enjoy or order fish when you dine out. Many restaurants make a wicked grilled salmon. Steer clear of battered deep-fried fish, which may contain unhealthy trans fat.

If you’re concerned about eating fish due to contaminants such as mercury and PCBs, limit your intake to two servings per week. Avoid high-mercury fish such as shark, swordfish and tuna steaks, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

Fish-oil facts

If you simply can’t stomach fish, I recommend taking a one-gram fish-oil capsule twice a week. If you have heart disease, though, the American Heart Association suggests taking a one-gram fish-oil pill every day. (The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada also supports these guidelines.) Keep this in mind when choosing a fish-oil supplement:

· Consumer Reports magazine tested 16 supplement brands and found all to be safe. It recommends you purchase based solely on the price of the product.
· Take fish-oil pills with meals to help avoid “fish burps.”
· Omega-3 fats from plant sources such as flaxseed and canola are not a substitute for the more potent omega-3 fats in fish.