The Taste Of The Mediterranean

Creating a life that is positively good for you...


Omega 3s without the bones

In chapter 3, we saw that there are some healthy fats that can be “positively good for you”. These included the monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and SOME polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), especially the so called omega 3 essential PUFAs.

Bowl Of Seeds

© 2010 Adam Poole

Omega 3s are substances that stabilise cells and have been shown to very significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Cardiac problems are very rare in Eskimo populations, despite a fat intake of 40% in their diet. This is due to the fact that much of the fat is derived from fish which contain a high proportion of the “marine omega3 fats”. Interestingly, this high fat diet in combination with an active lifestyle is very comparable to the diet of Crete, though here the fat intake is primarily derived from good MUFAs (in olive oil) in combination with relatively high oily fish consumption.

So, reduce the risk of heart disease with an increase in oily fish in your diet... as described in the Mediterranean diet.

Now, I realise that many people are put off oily fish by the bones. Also the reports of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs in our seas and oceans.

Certainly the benefits of oily fish undoubtedly outweigh the risks of contamination, assuming we consume different varieties of fish from different habitats. To eat fish two or three times a week for a main meal is good advice, and for those people who feel that removing the bones is burdensome, there are enough species of fish that can be served in “steak” or “fillet” form for it to be possible to adapt ones weekly shop to achieve this. Swordfish, salmon, eel, tuna are a few examples of “hassle-free” fish.

But there is more to omega3s. They are also freely available in some nuts and seeds. The chemistry of plant derived omega3s is not exactly the same as the marine omega3s, but there is widespread scientific consensus that they have beneficial effects of their own, and a proportion (though the exact amount is unclear) of plant omega3s will be converted by the body into at least one of the marine omega3s.

Walnuts are a good example of omega3 rich nuts. A handful of walnuts, perhaps mixed with almonds or brazil nuts scattered on a salad, or walnut oil added to olive oil and used in dressings can give a wonderful and easy boost to omega3 levels.

However, the omega3 treasure is flaxseed. This rather nondescript dark brown seed that is also known as linseed has received more attention as a preservative oil for cricket bats than as an extraordinary preserver of good health and wellbeing.

Flaxseed, which is available from whole food shops has the highest content of plant omega3s than any other seed or nut. It is simply way out ahead.

Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed on cereal every morning is a simple, cheap and incredibly effective way of boosting the omega3 content of the diet. It adds a subtle, slightly nutty flavour, and is especially complimentary to muesli and other oat based cereal. Grinding using a blender is advised as the absorption of the omega3s is considerably higher if the seeds are crushed and powdered.

Seeds are great snacking material. A bowl of mixed seeds available provides protein, fibre and some essential and good fats, along with other nutrients. Try pumpkin or sunflower seeds as a crunchy snack, or scattered onto salads or cereal.

Lignans - the other treasure of flaxseed?

As well as boasting the highest plant content of heart protecting omega3 essential oils, flaxseed contains chemicals called lignans. These belong to a group of naturally occurring substances called phytoestrogens, also present in particularly high amounts in soya. The role of phytoestrogens in the diet is not entirely clear, but there are early suggestions that these chemicals may confer benefits on bone health, reduce the rates of homone related cancers and reduce risk of heart disease. However, it must be stressed that such theories are not yet well established.

STEP 7; The Bottom Line - Ground Flaxseed on cereal and boost your heart