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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fats You Do Want in Your Diet

How is it possible that, at the same time that people often have too much fat in their diets, they also do not have enough?

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto

A tasty way to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet from the American Heart Association.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or lightly spray with cooking spray.

4 salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each), rinsed and patted dry
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Cilantro Pesto

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt-free garlic-herb seasoning blend

In a food processor or blender, process the pesto ingredients for 15 to 20 seconds, or until slightly chunky.

Place the fillets about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Spread the pesto evenly over the top of the fillets. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup almonds.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Serves four with one tablespoon pesto per serving.

Nutrition Analysis (per serving):

Calories: 206
Total Fat: 9.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Trans Fat: 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 66 mg
Sodium: 129 mg
Carbohydrates: 2 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sugars: 0 g
Protein: 28 g

It’s because there is more than one kind of fat.

Saturated and trans fats found in red meat, fried foods, whole-fat dairy products and most commercially-baked cookies and cakes are the cholesterol-raising, artery-clogging kinds that should be reduced. Omega-3 fatty acids – a type of polyunsaturated fat prevalent in fatty fish such as salmon, trout and tuna, and in walnuts, flaxseed, soybean and canola oils – are fats that most people need to increase. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body. This can lower risk for a number of serious, chronic diseases and conditions. These include:

Heart Disease

Research suggests that EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish) help reduce the heart disease risk factors of high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the bad cholesterol) and high blood pressure. EPA and DHA have also been shown to lower triglyceride levels (fats in the blood) and to lower the risk of death, heart attack, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. EPA and DHA also appear to slow the development of plaque and blood clots. This can help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).


By lowering triglycerides – high levels contribute to diabetes – and raising levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins, good cholesterol) omega-3 fatty acids reduce diabetes risk.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

The inflammation-reducing abilities of omega-3s can help with joint pain and morning stiffness associated with RA.


Research indicates that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and of the prostate.

To incorporate omega-3 fatty acids in diets, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people without documented coronary heart disease (CHD) eat at least two meals of baked or grilled (never fried) fatty fish – four ounces a serving – every week. Other sources of omega-3-rich foods such as tofu, soybeans, flaxseed and walnuts; canola, soybean and flaxseed oils; and, also, fish oil supplements will enhance omega-3 intake. How much should be consumed depends on an individual’s daily calorie level.

Patients with CHD, in addition to eating high-in-omega-3 foods, should consult with their physicians about fish oil supplements and other ways to supplement intake of these vital nutrients. How much they should consume depends on their particular heart condition.

Additional and broader information about diet and nutrition is in the Fund’s training manual, Nutrition and Fitness for Laborers and the associated brochure, Weight Matters. Both are available through the online catalogue.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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