Fish Oil Supplements

So, about those fish oil supplements everyone’s talking about, should you take them? If you do, what brands are the best? How much should you take? Does it matter when or how you take them?

Listen, I’m not a supplement pusher. In fact, I’m opposed to a lot of supplements unless used for a specific purpose, recommended by your doctor or dietitian, and meets 3rd party regulation standards (because supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA). I don’t care if “Dr. Oz said…” or “They say you should…”. Whatever he says or ‘they’ say, many supplements are bogus (including vitamins). But what about fish oil? Are they bogus?

Some fish have a wonderful fat called omega-3’s fatty acids. These fish include anchovies, sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackrel. If you eat about 2 servings of those each week you may not need an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Given that most of you don’t eat 2 servings, (including myself most weeks) then research shows it can’t hurt to take fish oil supplements.

Why are we even talking about fish oil in the first place? Well, because most of us don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory unlike omega-6’s. Omega-6’s come from most of the fat we eat (butter, cream, cheese, animal fats, and most plant fats). Don’t get me wrong we actually NEED these omega-6 fats in our diet…we just get too many. Omega-3’s on the other hand come from a small number of foods like these cold water fish, flax seeds, canola oil, walnuts, and chia seeds. So you see, it can be hard to get in even some omega-3’s during the day let alone the right amount.

So why take a fish oil supplement? I’ll give you 5 really good reasons:

  1. Fish oil gives us  DHA and EPA omega-3’s. Our human bodies understand these whereas the plant sources of omega-3’s give us ALA. ALA has to be converted in our bodies to EPA and DHA and to be honest, our bodies don’t do a super good job with that. There are advantages to eating these plant sources outside of omega-3’s so that’s why it’s great to get them in your diet, but to take them as a supplement can be a disadvantage.
  2. Fish oil is good for your heart. Not only can it help cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it can also improve your blood pressure. Remember it’s an anti-inflammatory fat as well so that helps your heart even further! Plus it’s heart health month and we’re all about that here and Amanda D Nutrition 😉
  3. Fish oil is good for your mind. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help with MANY disorders of the mind/brain. Your brain is made up of mostly omega-3 fats. If you’re not getting enough in your diet your probably not getting enough for your brain. It is super important for pregnant women and babies to get in enough omega-3’s especially DHA for baby brain development. Kiddos with ADHD have also shown signs of improvement from omega-3 supplements. As we age we forget stuff like where we left our car keys, wallet, cell phone, etc…you know. Omega-3’s help improve cognitive function like remembering all that stuff.
  4. Fish oil can help reduce inflammation in your body. So what? Well…inflammation causes most chronic diseases. Almost every single chronic disease is tied back to diet. A poor diet increases inflammation. Need I go on? Arthritis, cancer, and heart disease are the 3 most common inflammatory disease that may be improved or risks can be reduced from increasing omega-3 consumption…aka fish oil.
  5. Fish oil has also been shown beneficial in skin health. Like every organ in your body, the skin needs fat. Omega-3’s have been shown to help with many things like psoriasis (an inflammatory and autoimmune disease) and simple dry skin. Foods with omega-3’s also tend to carry vitamin E which is super important for skin health as well.

Again, I’m not a supplement pusher but I do think that if you’re not eating at least 2 servings of those cold water fish weekly you should probably take a fish oil supplement. I also think you should talk to your doctor about it as well. Most physicians are very open to their patients starting a fish oil supplement but it’s best to be 100% sure.

What to watch for:

  • Look for a fish oil supplement that is 3rd party tested. USP, NSF, Consumer Lab, Informed Choice Verification, and BSCG are all 3rd party test companies that have strict regulations on the supplements they put their approval on. Look for one of these labels on your fish oil brand because remember, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements.
  • As soon as you open the bottle REFRIGERATE IT! You’d never leave fresh salmon out of the refrigerator why would you leave it’s oil out? Yuck. You’ll get rid of those fish burps too. If you have a fish oil supplement that has been left out, throw it away and start fresh. It’s probably rancid and that’s why your breath smells like a fish boat.
  • It’s important that the company you buy from has the breakdown of how many mg (milligrams) of EPA and DHA are in the product. You want to get as close to 1000 mg of DHA and 500 mg of EPA as possible.
  • Choose sustainable companies that have MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or Environmental Defense Fund certifications OR find fish oils that contain smaller fish like anchovies and sardines which are naturally more sustainable.

If you are vegetarian remember that fish oil responds to your body better than plant sources of omega-3’s. I respect your decision to go animal free though. Find an omega-3 ALA supplement that is 3rd party tested. Still refrigerate it!

Enjoy!

Endometriosis Diet

There are many women who struggle with a disease called endometriosis. Not many dietitians have approached the subject because there is not a lot of research for diet and endometriosis but it is a huge problem for millions of women. It is an inflammatory disease of the endometrium (a thin sheet-like tissue that surrounds the uterus). When it starts to creep out into areas that it shouldn’t, it is called endometriosis.

This is a significant issue for women and can cause severe abdominal pains, bowel issues (constipation or diarrhea), bladder incontinence, and infertility. It can disrupt a woman’s life more than many people think but there are things women can do to reduce the symptoms.

Because endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, an anti-inflammatory diet may be able to help reduce the symptoms. Please do not read me incorrectly, I do not think an anti-inflammatory diet will cure endometriosis…I’m not that kind of “nutritionist”. But I think it could significantly make a woman’s quality of life much better and reduce the syptoms.

So what is an anti-inflammatory diet? It is a way of eating to reduce inflammation in the body…a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oils, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, and spices. If you are wanting an anti-inflammatory meal plan please see your local dietitian who can discuss this with you personally and work with you to create a diet that will work for you.

Foods to incorporate into your diet:

  1. Fruits – fresh and frozen are the best. Get a variety and at least 2 servings daily. Just eating apples and bananas are good but you’ll be missing out on antioxidants found in tropical fruits, berries, melons, and pit fruits like peaches.
  2. Vegetables – similar to fruits, fresh and frozen are the best and getting many different colors will give your body tons of antioxidants. You need at least 3 daily but I’m a big fan of getting in as many as possible. Shoot for reds (tomatoes, bell peppers), greens (spinach, asparagus), yellows/oranges (butternut and summer squash), blues/purples (purple cabbage, eggplant), whites/tans (mushrooms, cabbage).
  3. Grains – because they are a plant food they also have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Along with those benefits these power foods also have protein and fiber! Instead of the processed grains like white flour (white bread) and white rice choose whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice. PS corn is a whole grain not a vegetable 🙂
  4. Oils, Nuts, and Seeds – these super important fats are needed in our bodies ESPECIALLY on an anti-inflammatory diet. Canola oil and walnut oil are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and are great to cook with. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory. This means that eating more foods that are higher in omega-3 fats will help your body with inflammation. Along with canola oil and walnuts (walnut oil), flax seeds, chia seeds, pecans, and wheat germ are also high in omega-3’s. Other oils, nuts, and seeds are beneficial as well for your heart health and overall well-being.
  5. Oily fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are packed with those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Fit these in to your weekly meal plan or consider taking a quality tested fish oil supplement (check with your doctor before beginning any supplement). Canned salmon and tuna are very budget friendly ways to get in these fish. I prefer them on salads or sandwiches!
  6. Herbs and Spices – many herbs and spices are naturally anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a heavy hitter in this department. This proven inflammation reducer has shown to be a big player in the anti-inflammatory world. Other herbs and spices have shown some benefit as well like ginger, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

So what would an anti-inflammatory diet for endometriosis look like? Here’s a glimpse with two examples:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with walnuts, chia seeds, and blueberries
  • Whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana

Lunch:

  • Salad with canned salmon and black beans
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and carrot sticks

Dinner:

  • Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice
  • Baked mackerel, asparagus, red skinned potatoes

Snack:

  • Raisins and walnuts
  • Celery sticks and hummus

I recommend, for those that have endometriosis, to meet with a registered dietitian and go over your diet to see how you can make it more anti-inflammatory. Again, it will not cure the disease but if it can improve your symptoms and overall well-being then it is worth a shot! Some insurances may cover nutrition counseling for diseases like endometriosis so check with your health insurance company prior to your appointment.

To find a dietitian in your area check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert

*If you think you have endometriosis please see your gynecologist. For those that have endometriosis and decide to change your diet please let your gynecologist know*