January seems to be the month of dieting and new resolutions, but vilifying one of the essential macronutrients in our food is not a helpful step toward health. Omega-3s are fatty acids and a type of fat that is beneficial to one’s health in a variety of ways. Most people’s dietary intake of omega-3 fats is too low. When omega-3s are consumed, the body forms unique molecules which perform functions within cells that lead to improved health. Many research studies have suggested that these kind of fats are helpful for conditions like heart disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stroke, lupus and a type of renal disease.

Molecules made from omega-3s do not lead to the inflammation that is destructive in certain diseases like rheumatoid, psoriatic and osteoarthritis. Regarding cancer, omega-3s slow tumor development, can make chemotherapy more effective, assist with fewer side effects from chemotherapy and cause less weight loss if included in a cancer patient’s diet. Omega-3s can stabilize mood, benefiting those who have bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric diagnoses. Heart disease and strokes are benefited by omega-3s by means of a more stable heartbeat and decreased blood clots while keeping arteries open and lowering LCL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include grains like flaxseed, oat germ, wheat germ and certain cereals. Nuts high in omega-3s are walnuts, butternuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts. Many fish have high levels of omega-3s including salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, tuna, whitefish, halibut, bluefish and rainbow smelt. Vegetables with high levels of this beneficial fat are purslane, leeks, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and other leafy greens. Lastly, if you have a choice of cooking oil, canola is the best for omega-3s.

If you are looking for an easy, beneficial boost to your health, especially if you struggle with heart disease, stroke, a psychiatric diagnosis, depression or arthritis, try including more omega-3 rich foods in your regular food consumption. For questions on this topic or others, please contact the K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County office at 913-364-5700, visit us at 613 Holiday Plaza in Lansing or email Chelsi Myer at chelsim@ksu.edu

Chelsi Myer is a family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County.