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Making sure you've got something fishy in your diet is healthy

Congress has submitted a concurrent resolution supporting the designation of March 13 - 19 as "Extension Living Well Week."

As extension professionals we provide education that is basic to the quality of life for families, adults and youth.

Eat more fish. Yes, we should consume more omega-3 fatty acids to protect our hearts, according to updated recommendations by the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association states that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that omega-3 fats, especially those found in fish, have heart-protective benefits. Omega-3 fats are substances found in fish that help decrease blood clotting; lower blood pressure; decrease the growth of plaque in the arteries; and decrease abnormal heart rhythm.

EPA and DHA are two types of omegas found in fish, particularly fatty fish like herring, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, sardines, swordfish and albacore tuna.

Although some of these types of fish are also found to be high in mercury, the American Heart Association claims that the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risk for mercury poisoning.

However, children and pregnant or nursing women who are at increased risk of exposure to mercury but are at low risk for heart disease should avoid eating fish that contain high levels of mercury.

Another type of omega-3 fat known as alpha-linoleic acid is less potent and is found in plant foods. ALA is found in soybeans, canola, walnuts and flaxseed and oils made from these products.

The AHA's recommendations are:

Healthy adults should eat a variety of fish, preferably fatty fish, at least twice a week. Also, include oils, nuts and seeds rich in alpha-linoleic acid.

If you have heart disease, get about 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day, with as much from fatty fish as possible.

If you have high triglyceride levels, above 200 mg, consume 2 - 4 grams of EPA and DHA per day from both fish and fish oil supplements. Be sure to check with your physician.

Because it is difficult to reach the goal of 2 - 4 grams per day with fish alone, fish oil is recommended for those with high triglycerides.

Most fish oil supplements provide about 300 milligrams of omega-3 fats per capsule. Taking more than 3 grams, or 3000 milligrams, of fish oil supplements a day can cause unwanted bleeding and can increase LDL cholesterol. Therefore, your physician should monitor you carefully.

Web posted on Thursday, March 10, 2005


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