Eating foods used to treat inflammation can go a long way in helping you feel better about your body and mood this spring. Although we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel, living in a pandemic has been difficult for most of us. You may feel less comfortable in your body than you did before the pandemic. This may be due to increased inflammation due to inactivity, especially in the winter months, reliance on comfort foods, and a heavy dose of stress caused by the lockdown of life.
Last month, we researched the benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables every day to reduce symptoms of inflammation such as joint and muscle pain, brain fog, mood problems, fatigue, and weight gain. The good news is that there are more anti-inflammatory foods out there that can make you feel better. So it’s not just about limiting yourself and feeling deprived, it’s about getting on the path to better health.
Omega-3 fatty acids in particular have significant anti-inflammatory properties in the body and are readily available in the supermarket.
Top 5 Foods for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
1. Oily fish are probably the best known source of omega-3 fatty acids, with salmon being the preferred choice by many. In fact, there are many types of salmon, all loaded with disease preventive nutrients as well as healthy fats for the brain and heart. The health benefits of fish oil are believed to come primarily from two omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
King salmon tends to store more fat and have more omega-3 fatty acids due to its longer upstream journeys. Farmed salmon are often fatter than wild salmon because they are fed grains and vegetable oils that are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats that combat the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Your best choice for salmon is wild for this reason, and farmed fish are often treated with antibiotics and artificial colors.
Keep in mind that other fatty fish provide a hefty dose of omega-3 fats, including mackerel, herring, oysters, anchovies, caviar, and sardines.
2. Chia seeds are tiny packets of super-nutrition and another great source of omega-3 fatty acids. They provide a remarkable amount of nutrients in an amazingly small serving of just 1 to 2 tablespoons.
Despite their small size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods in the world. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans valued them for their energy-boosting properties. In addition to having a good omega-3 profile, they’re also a great source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.
However, the omega-3 fats in chia seeds are not as strong as those in fish oil (EPA and DHA). Chia seeds contain a vegetable omega-3-alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has to be converted into EPA and DHA through a limited supply of enzymes. In terms of omega-3 potency, fish is a more effective source.
3. Flaxseed is also a good source of omega-3 fats, but even as a plant source, it is not as potent as fish oil by weight. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. Note, however, that what is on the label does not reflect its biological value. For example, 700 mg of flax oil is nowhere near as effective as 700 mg of omegas. It’s important to note that flaxseed and chia seeds are both excellent sources of fiber, essential nutrients, and lignans, which are known for cancer prevention, gut health, prevention of diabetes, and brain and heart health.
4. Walnuts are loaded with essential nutrients and are one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3 fats. They’re a great snack on the go and can be used in salads with a healthy splash of olive oil. Add them to any vegetable dish for flavor and nutrition. Other nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and macadamias also help fight inflammation.
5. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of omega-3 fats, as are other seeds like sesame, sunflower, and hemp. One of the most important benefits of seeds (and nuts) is how versatile and easy they are to add to your diet. Try mixing up a trail with seeds, nuts, and a small amount of dried fruit. Or sprinkle seeds on muesli, yogurt, salads, soups or mix them into smoothies.
The easiest way to include these foods in your diet is to eat fatty fish at least three times a week while filling your pantry with a wide variety of nuts and seeds that can be added to almost any dish in a snap to prepare. Next month we’ll talk about anti-inflammatory herbs and spices and certain foods to help prevent inflammation.
Ruth Clark, author of the bestselling book Cool the Fire: Curb Inflammation and Equilibrium Hormones, is a registered nutritionist with a Masters in Public Health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon and her practice is 100% virtual. Ruth specializes in middle and older women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at Ruth@RuthRD.com.