Experts Recommend More Omega-3s

Despite recommendations from most recognized health experts, many people in the U.S. continue to eat low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their normal diets. Instead they opt for foods that contain less healthy fats, like saturated fats and trans fats.

According to the Detroit Free Press, experts say that omega-3s support healthy heart function, while most other types of fats have the opposite effect. This is why consuming nothing but processed foods and beef can have such a damage impact on heart health.

Instead of the normal Western-style diet, eating more fish can be one of the most effective ways to get higher levels of omega-3s into a diet. Experts recommend fatty saltwater fish like swordfish or salmon. These varieties of fish have some of the highest levels of the nutrient.

One of the reasons why it is so important to consume omega-3s as part of a healthy diet is because the human body cannot make the nutrient itself. Unlike vitamin D or many other types of nutrients, which the body can produce naturally, the only way to get the benefits of omega-3s is through diet. Therefore, adding it to a diet or taking nutritional supplements is critical.

“There is substantial evidence to suggest that our levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids may be the most potent cardio-protective factors in the human diet,” said Harvard researcher William Butler. “Optimal omega-3 intake can have a profound effect in safely reducing the risk of cardiac disease and promoting health in men, women and children of all ages.”

Despite the many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, relatively few people are aware of the important role that they play in their health. Even fewer actually make efforts to incorporate foods containing these nutrients into their diets.

In order to remedy the situation, a group of nutrition researchers recently decided to celebrate an International Omega-3 Awareness Day this week. Officials said that the event is important for helping people understand how critical omega-3s are to their health.
Officials added that studies have shown a high percentage of the people in the U.S. are omega-3 deficient. This contributes to an unnecessarily high rate of disease. They said that inspiring people to consume more of the nutrient could be a major public health victory.

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Statement Calls for Higher Omega-3 Consumption

In an effort to inspire more individuals to seek ways to support their brain health, attendees of the Global Omega-3 Summit on Nutrition, Health and Human Behavior, which was recently held in Brugels, Belgium, signed a policy statement that calls for educating lawmakers and the public on the importance of omega-3 fatty acids.

The statement says that the health benefits of the nutrients have been proven. Study after study has shown that omega-3s are an effective means for supporting heart and brain health and that they are an indispensible part of a healthy diet.

However, far too many people fail to get adequate amounts of omega-3s into their diet. To remedy this, the statement recommends that individuals immediately reduce their intake of unhealthy saturated fats and replace them in their diet with more omega-3s.

Furthermore, the statement says that educating stakeholders, which include lawmakers, the public and healthcare professionals, about the benefits of omega-3s will play a critical role in increasing consumption.

The nutrients can be found in fatty fish and some vegetables. Additionally, krill oil supplements have high levels of omega-3s.

As individuals age, they often begin to experience joint health problems. These are most common in the knees, making mobility an issue for millions of seniors. However, experts say that certain nutrients may be able to support strong joint health well into adulthood.

Dr. Mehmet Oz recently wrote in the Calgary Herald that omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. This is one of the main culprits behind joint health issues, and reducing swelling may help support improved function.

He said that omega-3s are most abundant in fish. Salmon and tuna are among the best sources of the nutrient. Even canned tuna can provide extremely high levels of omega-3s, which may make adding more of the nutrient to a diet relatively simple.

Studies have also shown that omega-3s can support healthy weight, which is another major factor that Oz said can impact joint health.

Joint health problems are the leading cause of disability in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Researchers Continue to Find Heart Health Benefits to Omega-3s

Study after study continues to affirm the heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Experts say that the evidence is fairly conclusive and that anyone who is concerned about their cardiovascular condition should consider adding more of the nutrient to their weekly diet.

The latest in this string of research came from the University of California, San Francisco. Investigators from the school assessed the heart health of a group of patients after a period of five years and examined the level of omega-3 consumption during the study period, according to news station THV.

Their results showed that those who consumed the highest levels of the nutrient had the best heart health. The researchers said that their findings confirm the understanding that omega-3s benefit the cardiovascular system.

“The results of our study do underscore the recommendations of the American Heart Association, that patients with known coronary artery disease should be getting at least one gram a day of omega-3 fish oil,” lead researcher Raimin Farzaneh-Far told the news source.

The findings confirm the results of a 2002 study published in the journal Circulation, which was among the first to assert the heart health benefits of omega-3s.

New findings indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can positively affect ocular health. A research team at the Children’s Hospital in Boston found that omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish oil, promote the growth of healthy blood vessels while simultaneously hindering the development of abnormal vessels.

A previous study of the impact of omega-3, which was conducted by the same researchers, examined the effects of omega-3 on mice. The study revealed that the pathologic vessel growth in the retinas of mice that were fed an omega-3 diet was 50 percent lower than in the mice that were fed diets rich in omega-6. Western diets are more likely to contain omega-6 than omega-3.

In the recent study, the researchers isolated the compounds and enzymes within omega-3 that caused the positive outcome observed in the mice. An examination of the components of omega-3 revealed that its benefits are not inhibited by taking aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication.

Lois Smith, a senior researcher and an ophthalmologist at the Children’s Hospital, is also collaborating with the National Eye Institute to study the effects of omega-3 on ocular diseases.

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Experts offer tips on keeping your brain healthy

You can always do more to take better care of your brain, even if you haven't been experiencing any memory problems. In fact, a handful of Texas-based researchers have focused their efforts into finding more information on brain health, in order to help brains nationwide stay in better shape.

"The more knowledge we can share about the brain, the more we can empower individuals to take charge of their cognitive health," said Sandra Chapman, Ph.D., of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas (UT).

As an ongoing yearly tradition at UT, Chapman and her associates are planning to host a series of lectures they've titled "The Brain: An Owner's Guide." This year, the speakers will focus on how the brain controls thought and action, decisions and emotions that affect our lives, and how the internet has changed the way brains work.

Chapman also recently published a book on the subject on brain health, titled "Make Your Brain Smarter." In the tome, she presents the theories that aging does not impact brain health the way many people assume it does. In addition, having a good memory may not necessarily mean your brain is in the best shape, according to her findings.

Some suggested vitamins for healthy brains
While scientists continue to advance our knowledge of how the brain works, there a few things some people are already convinced may help improve the brain's overall functioning.

For example, writing for the official website of television health celebrity Dr. Oz, Dr. Rovenia Brock, Ph.D., recommends consuming omega-3 fatty acids, known to be especially present in fish oil for the improvement of brain, joint, eye and heart health. The names of the two omega-3 acids most commonly found in fish oil are called eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For people who don't already consume fish frequently, Rovenia encourages them to munch down a 500 milligram (mg) supplement per day. DHA, states Rovenia, is already
present in the brain's nerve cells and additional DHA could aid the brain's development and functionality.

Likewise, the Alzheimer's Prevention and Research Foundation (APRF) notes that omega-3 acid from fish oil could potentially lessen an individual's chances of developing memory loss or dementia during old age. Exercise and consuming additional healthy foods could also reduce chances of brain deterioration.

However, the awareness and research organization provides a handful of other substances a person could consume regularly to help their minds keep fit.

In addition to omega 3….
Next on its list of measures that could help prevent brain deterioration, the APFR lists taking a comprehensive multivitamins on a daily basis. The organization postulates that brain damage has been linked to low blood levels of folic acid. Therefore, a multivitamin for brain health should contain 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, as well as 500 mg of vitamin C.

The organization also recommends the antioxidant CoEnzyme Q10. It's said that this antioxidant will improve overall energy, especially if an individual is older than 35 years of age. While it occurs naturally in the body, the amount of CoEnzyme Q10 within humans starts to reduce over the years, which results in a loss of energy. In terms of dosage, the APRF says people should take between 200 and 400 mg of the antioxidant. Another antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid, and gingko biloba are also also on the APRF's compilation of potentially brain enhancing supplements.

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Is your salad actually healthy?

You might think that you are really healthy because you eat salads, but you may be wrong. Some salads contain high-fat dressings that can actually do more harm than good, and certain ingredients may not be giving you the vitamins and antioxidants you need. This is why it's important to choose your salads carefully, and know what you're getting into.

Even though it's winter and it might not be prime-veggie season, that doesn't mean that you should write off salads for good. There are plenty healthy and delicious winter salads that can help you reach your weight loss goals all year long. However, it's important that you recognize that not all salads are created equal, and there are some things you should avoid if you want to stay fit.

Not-so-healthy salads

If you're in a restaurant, you might be tempted to order a Cobb salad, which is a staple at many places. However, a traditional Cobb includes bacon, egg, blue cheese and creamy dressing, all of which are packed with fat and calories. Nutritionist Joy Bauer states that a standard restaurant chef's salad contains Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs and dressing, which can add up to 1,000 calories and nearly 80 grams of fat. Does that sound healthy to you?

 

Eating Well Magazine has some tips for what you should be avoiding at the salad bar if you're trying to watch your calories. With some toppings it's just common sense, like bacon, which everyone knows is filled with fat and sodium. Along with bacon, you have to be careful about the crunchy toppings you choose for your salad. For example, one half of a cup of croutons can contain 100 calories and be packed with fat. Also, tortilla strips and crispy noodles should be avoided.

Most importantly, you have to be careful about dressings. When it comes to healthy or unhealthy salads, dressings care really make or break you. You want to avoid creamy dressings such as ranch, which can have 73 calories and nearly 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, and blue cheese, which is also packed with fat. As a rule, it's better to stick with oil-based dressings than creamy ones. Go for Italian or balsamic vinaigrette for a healthier option, or simply use olive oil, which contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Create a better salad

So now that you know what to avoid, how can you create a healthy salad? First, you'll want to choose the right greens. The Huffington Post has a list of the most and least nutritious greens for your salad to help you make that decision.

First, choose your green based on color. Iceberg lettuce, which is usually light green, has some nutritional value but not a lot. You're better off choosing romaine, arugula or collard greens, which have more vitamins. If you really want to make your salad as healthy as possible, go with kale, which has more calcium than a glass of milk, and is packed with vitamin A.

Then, pile on as many vegetables as you like. Whether it's cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage, or sulfur-rich veggies such as onions or garlic, you really can't go wrong.

Finally, it's a good idea to have some sort of protein on your salad so you don't get hungry later, but be careful what you choose. For example, always select grilled chicken over fried, or tofu or chickpeas if you're a vegetarian. It's a good idea to stay away from high-fat meats such as ham, which is also packed with sodium. Finally, one hard-boiled egg is also a good choice for a healthy salad. 

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Diets still help your health, even if you regain weight

Have you become frustrated by seeing a lack of results, after you've tried many weight loss methods? Or, have you shed pounds with diet and exercise but then put some of the weight back on? If so, then don't worry, because you've still improved your health. According to a recent study conducted by scientists from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Israel's Nuclear Research Center, low-carb and Mediterranean diets have long-lasting positive health effects, even if you put some pounds back on.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, as a follow-up to previous research that came to similar conclusions. These findings highlight the importance of eating a healthy diet, even if it doesn't always give you the weight loss results you want.

Long-term benefits

The scientists followed 322 individuals who originally participated in a study that examined the effects of the Mediterranean diet, a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet to see if they could help these people lose weight and improve their overall health.

Six years after the initial study, the researchers found that even if the individuals on the Mediterranean or low-carb diets regained some of the initial weight they lost, they still had significantly better cholesterol levels. This is extremely important for cardiovascular health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every six Americans has high cholesterol, which may increase their risk of experiencing a cardiovascular problem. These findings suggest that eating a low-carb or Mediterranean diet may help these individuals improve their cholesterol levels and improve their heart health.

"This breakthrough, even years later, continues to yield valuable information that can help every one of us make healthier diet choices," said Doron Krakow, executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The right kind of fat

Both a low-carb and a Mediterranean diet revolve around the concept of "good" fats. Some people may mistakenly believe that all fat is bad, but that's simply not true. In fact, certain fats are necessary for brain health and overall well-being.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the Mediterranean diet has fewer meats and carbohydrates, and includes more plant-based foods and monounsaturated (good) fat, compared to the traditional Western diet. Some of the staples of this eating plan are fish and nuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy lipid. This diet also encourages you to use olive oil whenever possible instead of butter. While the latter contains unhealthy, artery-clogging saturated fats, olive oil has omega-3s and is the much better choice.

You won't find a great deal of eggs or red meat in a Mediterranean diet. This is good if you're trying to improve your cholesterol levels, since a study conducted earlier this year showed that consuming egg yolks can be as dangerous to your arteries as smoking.

Cut that cholesterol

The Mayo Clinic has a list of foods that you should consider consuming if you want to improve your cholesterol levels. For example, you want to be sure to get plenty of fiber, which can be found in oatmeal, oat bran and whole grain bread. You'll want to get five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day, which really isn't that much. According to the Clinic, one-and-a-half cups of cooked oatmeal can deliver 6 grams of soluble fiber.

Also, you want to be sure to get regular physical activity in order to maintain a healthy weight and keep your cholesterol levels low. Weight management can be difficult, but following a Mediterranean diet can be a delicious way to help keep yourself trim.
 

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For vitamin-insufficient population, food options are wide for vitamin D

Vitamin D fanatics may spend hours at the beach catching tans to increase their levels, but there are also nutrient-rich foods packed with the key vitamin and available at a store near you.

Fish
According to Men's Health, only 3 ounces of wild salmon can provide 112 percent of your daily value of the vitamin. Not only is wild salmon delicious – it's also high in omega-3s, which are polyunsaturated fatty acids known for their potential to improve metabolism. According to the FDA, one three to six ounce canned salmon serving can provide as much as a week's worth of omega-3s.

People have been pairing salmon with bagels and cream cheese for years, but more varied options also exist, such as mixing it with avocado to get more heart-healthy fats, or adding lemon juice or capers for taste. If you're in a hurry, salmon even goes well with toast.

But salmon isn't the only chicken of the sea with vitamin D and omega-3s. Tuna, in addition to being a good source of protein, also has a healthy amount of vitamin D. This fish goes well with pickles, lettuce and mayonnaise. Just avoid buying tuna that comes packaged in a can. While canned salmon has mercury levels below FDA detection, canned tuna has at least 35 times more mercury, according to the ocean conservancy group Oceana.

Tuna with healthy mercury levels will be labeled as "chunk tuna" or darker meat tuna, provided by a different species than the "white" or "chunk light" tuna often found in cans. The darker tuna is smaller, and smaller fish take in less mercury.

Fruit & Dairy
Orange juice is also well-known for its richness of vitamin D, with one cup providing about one third the average daily value. Fortified Milk also includes the vitamin in moderate amounts, and you're likely to find vitamin D enriched milk in supermarkets. Other dairy products like yogurt also contain vitamin D. Yogurt is also a great snack for post-workout, when your muscles need protein for repair.

Vitamin D performs a number of key functions in the body, primarily in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which have been shown to boost bone health. In the body, the active form of the vitamin is called Calcitriol, and it has been linked to increased calcium absorption in the kidneys as well as greater percentages of the mineral in the bloodstream.

Population deficiencies
Data from the 2009 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that nine percent of children in the United States are deficient in vitamin D (lower than 15 ng/mL in blood), with 61 percent vitamin D insufficient (15 to 29 ng/mL). While vitamin D is generated through sun exposure, the evidence is clear that many may not be getting enough sunlight to get optimal levels of the key compound. Increasing vitamin D intake through food may be a good way to supplement diet regardless of sunshine exposure.

Vitamin C
Another vitamin easily available in foods is vitamin C, for which the most famous example is perhaps oranges. Vitamin C may raise immune system health and has been linked to higher levels of iron absorption.

Other foods high in the vitamin include guava fruit, kiwis, red and green sweet peppers, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe and brussel sprouts. Strawberries are also high in fiber and antioxidants, and a red pepper can boast more than 100 mg of vitamin C, according to numerous studies.

Next time you go out to eat, you might want to try some lox with a side of orange juice, or there may be some yogurt or kiwis lying around to mix into a vitamin-rich snack for work. In the end, sunlight may be good for you, but it's not the only way to get your fix of vitamins.

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Omega-3s may promote healthy aging

Healthy aging is a lifelong process that involves maintaining a proper diet, a good exercise regimen and the right vitamin supplements. For example, a recent study from Ohio State University researchers showed that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be able to help slow down the aging process and keep people feeling younger, longer.

Researchers examined overweight yet healthy middle-aged and older adults to reach this conclusion. They discovered that individuals who took omega-3 supplements for four months were able to help preserve segments of their DNA called telomeres. These exist in many different types of cells and shorten over time as the result of aging. The scientists found that the more omega-3s people consumed, the longer their telomeres seemed to be.

The scientists explained that telomeres are like the plastic around the tips of a shoelace. They are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect them.

"If that plastic comes off, the shoelace unravels and it doesn’t work anymore," said study co-author Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR) at Ohio State. "In the same way, every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of its DNA at the ends, and over time, that can cause significant problems."

Supplements make a difference

According to Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, these findings are exciting because they suggest that a nutritional supplement may actually make a difference when it comes to aging. Scientists are constantly searching for new ingredients that will be able to slow the aging process, and this study suggests that a long-known crucial fatty acid may have been one of the keys all along.

Kiecolt-Glaser added that people who experience chronic stress may gain even more benefits from taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

More tips for healthy aging

WebMD offers other tips for how people can age healthily. First, it's important for elderly individuals to remain active to keep their weight under control and their muscles and bones strong. Next, older people need to be sure to eat right. For example, low-fat quality protein such as poultry, fish, eggs and soy are important to keep people healthy.

Furthermore, carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, so it's important to get healthy amounts of them. These include vegetables, whole grains and fruits, all of which are healthy sources of carbs.
 

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