Omega-3 fatty acids
Some fats are bad for your heart, but not omega-3s. These essential fatty acids keep cholesterol levels low, decrease blood pressure, protect against cardiovascular disease, and act as natural blood thinners. Omega-3s are also helpful in preventing or treating arthritis, diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, skin disorders such as psoriasis, eye diseases such as macular degeneration, and menstrual pain. The omega-3 family includes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Because the body does not manufacture these healthful polyunsaturated oils, it's important to obtain them from a well-balanced diet or supplement. Here's how.
Eat wild salmon. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish each week. Wild salmon is high in both EPA and DHA and has a lower risk of contaminants, such as mercury, than other fish. Herring, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are also good sources of EPA and DHA.
Fortify with flaxseed. Flaxseed is an excellent source of ALAs, which are converted to EPA in the body. To keep flaxseed from spoiling, buy in small amounts and keep refrigerated. Always grind whole flaxseeds, but only grind the amount you will consume immediately, says Debra Boutin, clinic nutrition coordinator for Bastyr University. ALAs can also be found in hempseed, tofu, canola oil, walnuts, and soybeans.
Add fish-oil capsules to your regimen. If fish isn't your favorite meal, get the benefits of EPAs and DHAs by taking fish-oil capsules (now available in flavors like lemon). Make sure your brand is independently certified pure because fish oils can contain the same toxins as a fish fillet.