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!

Precious Heart

Your heart is the life beat of your body…quite literally. Heart disease is a killer. It kills more people every year in the U.S. than anything else. Do you have heart disease? Does someone you love have heart disease? Do you or someone you love have diseases that lead up to heart disease?

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Triglycerides
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Diabetes

Do you or someone you love have these risk factors that make you more susceptible to get heart disease?

  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Obesity
  • Inactive
  • Family History of Heart Disease
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure while pregnant)
  • Poor Food Choices

Does this scare you? If it did, that was not my intention. My intention was to get you to hear me out and face the facts of how utterly important your diet is to keep your ticker ticking. I care about you. Every single one of my readers. I pray for you and I pray for the health of your bodies.

What you eat matters a lot when it comes to heart health. I could give you the same old lecture on eating “healthy” food will keep you healthy. But you’ve gotten that before. The month of February we’re going to talk about foods that you may want to get into your diet to improve your risk factors and keep that heart healthy.

Start today…don’t wait. Foods that have a lot of salt (sodium), animal fats (beef, pork, butter, cream), trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), and not enough balance of the super nutrient rich foods can lead you down the path of illness. Let’s take the path of wellness…

Week 4 Challenge: Eat more plants

Eating more plants really isn’t about going vegetarian or vegan. Eating more plants is about much more than weight management too. Sure, non-starchy veggies are super low in calories and fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, and nuts have so much fiber to keep you full they all help with weight management but it doesn’t stop there.

Here’s what research tells us about eating more plants:

  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease
  2. Reduce your risk of ALL TYPES of cancer
  3. Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Reduce your cholesterol
  5. Reduce your blood pressure
  6. Reduce your weight
  7. Reduce your blood sugars
  8. Improve your gut bacteria
  9. Help you to move your bowels

For the record, I’m talking about whole plant foods not processed plant-like substances.

Here’s a list of plant based foods that you could start incorporating into your diet:

  • Fruits
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now that would be your tropical fruits: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, mandarins, pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas
    • Frozen: shoot for ones without added sugar – these are great for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits
    • Dried: raisins are the best because they do not have any added sugars; cranberries do have added sugar (you wouldn’t eat them otherwise); watch out for the word “chips” which could mean they are deep fried
    • Canned: unsweetened applesauce and other canned fruits in light syrup (which means they are canned in the fruit juice without added sugar) are a good source of vitamins but not a lot of fiber. The words “no sugar added” usually means there is artificial sweeteners used.
  • Non-starchy vegetables
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now where I’m at, this is tough because the only thing “in season” is what was harvested in the late fall and can stay fresh in a cool dry place. Other times during the year go for whats growing in your garden or at the local farmers market.
    • Frozen: this is best in the winter as these veggies were picked in season and then frozen keeping their nutrients in tact! Plus they tend to be less expensive in the winter than fresh.
    • Canned: although these have less fiber than fresh or frozen they are a less expensive alternative and still provides your body with nutrients. Get the ones without the added salt and season yourself.
  • Starchy vegetables
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, and winter squashes are all considered starchy. These guys make a great source of carbohydrates for energy and are SO full of nutrients!
  • Beans
    • Black, pinto, lima, soy (edamame), kidney, cannellini, etc. These gems are packed with protein, fiber, and tons of nutrients! I love black beans on my salad for some carbohydrates (energy) too.
  • Peas
    • Snow peas, green peas, black eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans – they are actually peas not beans). Similarly to beans, peas are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients!
  • Lentils
    • The forgotten legume, lentils are easy to cook, go well in almost any soup, stew, or salad and pack a protein, fiber, nutrient punch to any dish they are in!
  • Nuts
    • In order of awesomeness: walnuts, pecans, the rest. All nuts are great but walnuts and pecans have more omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that are really good for your heart). I like to mix them up so that I can gain the benefits of as many as possible. I’m the one who buys the mixed nuts container at the grocery store.
  • Seeds
    • We tend to think of seeds as sunflower and pumpkin but there’s a whole array of seeds that are super beneficial as well. Chia, flax, hemp, and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. All but the sesame seeds need refrigerated. FLAX SEEDS MUST BE GROUND IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFIT. I add chia and flax to oatmeal and smoothies almost daily. Chia can be put into tea and drank as well.
  • Whole grains
    • Whole grains aren’t “bad for you”. Ugh when I hear that I want to cry tears of grains. Wheat isn’t bad for you either unless you have Celiac disease. Now that we have that out of the way whole grains are a wonderful addition to get in daily. Bleached, no fiber, processed grains are less than nutritionally dense but that doesn’t mean they are “bad” (again changing mindsets about food). Just don’t eat them often. I’m really talking about the true WHOLE grain.
    • My top 10 favorite whole grains to use/cook with are: oats, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, black rice, and corn. If there are some in this list that are unfamiliar to you, check out your local grocery store to see if you can find them and give them a try! Keep checking the blog for more recipes that I’ll be featuring wheat berries, farro, and black rice. Curious about quinoa? Check out this recipe.

Plants are awesome. Plants are an important part of a healthy diet. Plants are a critical piece to the weight management journey. Eat more plants!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

When I was younger my grandmother made these incredible pork chops. They were breaded, pan fried, and then baked with tomatoes and onions. I still remember how they tasted. She hasn’t made them in a long time but my parents have taken this recipe and made it better for you. To get the recipe, I called my dad because he is the one who usually makes the dish and apparently this started the “pork chop recipe battle of 2016” between my parents as they fervently discussed who’s recipe it is. Honestly, whoever’s recipe it is, it is a keeper! This is a dish that my husband and I ask for quite often because it is so delicious!

When I’m cooking I like to take a recipe that I’ve found and put a spin on it so that’s exactly what I’ve done to this one. From my grandmothers original breaded pork chops to my parents unbreaded baked pork chops I took it one step further with a pork loin and I think you’ll really enjoy it…I know we did!

When you buy pork loins at the store they usually come in packs of 2 (about 2 pounds each loin). I used both in this recipe but you can certainly cut it in half and do pork barbecue or cut your own chops (pork chops come from the loin) from the other one. Look for the leanest one…the one without a huge fat layer and marbling. Pork loin is the leanest cut from the pork but it still can have a layer of fat and some marbling.

NUTRITION SIDE NOTE: Marbling is the white swirls in pork, beef, and lamb. This is fat…saturated fat. It carries a lot of cholesterol (it also carries a lot of flavor). Look for meat without a lot of marbling and add flavor through oils, herbs, and spices.

In every recipe I make there’s an ingredient that many people do not think of adding. I like to be creative yet practical and invent recipes that people would actually make at home but also push you out of your comfort zone a little. My secret weapon in this recipe are capers. If you’ve never used/eaten a caper before I promise you are missing out! The are relatively inexpensive (for a jar that will last me months it cost $1.50) and have a taste that will knock your socks off! They are salty and briny…but not strong like olives. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

There’s another catch to this recipe. I add tons of vegetables because a diet that is 2/3 vegetable based has been shown to reduce your risk of many diseases like heart disease and cancer. THAT is why a healthy diet is important. Weight management is important but that is a side note…health, now that’s where it is at kids!

The steps are simple…

Chop:

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Season

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Layer

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Smother

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Cook it!

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OK the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 whole carrots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 medium onions (2 large)
  • Pork loin (I used 2, 2 pound loins)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if watching your sodium intake)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Chop celery, carrots, peppers, and half of the onions (larger pieces about 1 inch). Put them in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  2. Place pork loins in a large bowl and rub capers, garlic, oregano, turmeric, salt, and pepper over the loin to get the flavors surrounding it. I cut small slits into the loin and stuffed them with the garlic and capers.
  3. Put the loins over the vegetables and pour the balsamic vinegar over the loin and veggies.
  4. Place the can of crushed tomatoes around the pork loin and layer the rest of the onions on top. Top it off with the can of diced tomatoes. I also put another teaspoon of capers on top of the diced tomatoes but this is optional…I really like capers!
  5. Cook on high 6 hours or low 8-10 hours.

I served the pork loin with parsley and lemon red skin potatoes and a side salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Parsley and Lemon Red Skin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red skin potatoes cut in 1 inch cubes (skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives
  • 1/3 lemon (about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a glass dish. Using a steamer lid (or a glass plate on top) microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste (can also use more herbs and spices)

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Recipe Notes: this slow cooker recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare. You can sear the tenderloin in a pan first but it is not necessary. The meat is fall apart tender without the sear. It is so quick, easy, and delicious.

Pork loin recipe cost: about $15 for  8 servings (4 oz of meat). That is $1.87 per serving!