Other than taking fish supplements, how can I add fatty acids to my diet?

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
Fish oil supplements are primarily a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Thousands of studies on the two omega-3's in fish oil, EPA and DHA show significant heart, brain, anti-inflammatory and other health benefits. Although extremely important components of a healthy fat intake, these aren't the only important fatty acids one should consume. Other important fatty acids include omega-6 fats as found in non-hydrogenated safflower and sunflower oil, nuts and seeds, evening primrose and borage seed oils. Heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids as found in olives, olive oil, almonds, macadamia nuts and avocados should also be consumed daily. Fats to limit include excess amounts of saturated fatty acids as found in whole milk, cheese, butter, red meat, cottonseed and palm kernel oils. A high intake of saturated fats has been shown to increase blood cholesterol levels including both total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, both are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Fatty acids that should be completely avoided are trans-fatty acids derived from foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils. Such as margarine, cakes, cookies and other process foods.

The body has no use for trans-fatty acids and they also increase total and LDL cholesterol and the risk for heart disease. So when it comes to fatty acid intake balance is key. Consume generous amounts of omega-3 fats, healthy sources of omega-6 fats (non-hydrogenated and non-processed). Include monounsaturated fats daily. Limit your intake of saturated fats and avoid completely any sources of trans-fatty acids. Rely on food first, and, try to include supplements of fish oil or, if vegetarian use flaxseed oil. To ensure a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats, when supplementing with fish oil or flaxseed oil, also include either borage or evening primrose oil both healthy sources of omega-6 fatty acids, but not as well known.                     
Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

According to the American Dietetic Association fatty acids should be limited to 20 to 30% of calories in your diet, the majority from mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids. Fatty acids include saturated fatty acids which the American Heart Association recommends to be less than 7% of calories from your diet and trans fatty acids which should be avoided in your diet. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are recommended in your diet to reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, and reduce risk of sudden and cardiac death. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid found in flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil and walnuts; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docasapentaenoic acid, and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in algae, fatty fish, fish oil, supplements and foods supplemented with these oils. A variety of designer foods are now fortified with EPA and DHA including cereals, eggs, and milk as labeled. The amount and quality of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids in fortified food products is variable.

Continue Learning about Fats

Fats

At 9 calories per gram, fats can add up quickly in your diet, yet experts recommend that you get only 7% of your calorie intake from fat. Fats also affect your cholesterol, and there are both good and bad fats. The best kind of fa...

ts are called unsaturated fats, and can be found in oils like olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds. These fats can help your body get rid of cholesterol. Saturated fats often have had hydrogen added to them to make them more solid. Other saturated fats are found in cream, butter and meats. They can raise your blood cholesterol. Its wise to learn which is which and check nutrition labels to make proper choices.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.