The Essential Omega 3

As previously mentioned in ‘5 Simple Guidelines to Eating Healthy‘, I like to obtain as much of my nutrition from real food as possible. I try to avoid taking any supplements. The one exception to this is omega 3. There is significant evidence to support the claim, that an increased intake of omega 3 can help athletes who suffer from exercise induced asthma, to manage their symptoms. It can help reduce inflammation, especially in the respiratory tract, has been found to be beneficial for good heart health and is vital for a healthy immune system.

What is Omega 3?

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that needs to be included in a healthy diet, as the body can not make it itself. It is found in oily fish, nuts and some seeds, including linseeds. Over the Christmas period I accidentally ran out of my omega 3 supplement. I therefore had to make an extra special effort to include more in my diet.

Everyone needs to include omega 3 in their diet, not just elite athletes. Including those mentioned previously, the benefits of consuming omega 3 are:

  • Reduced inflammation (particularly in the respiratory tract)
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Helps to keep the heart healthy
  • Vital for building and repairing cell membranes
  • Helps blood to clot
  • Helps control body temperature and blood pressure

Where can I get Omega 3?

One of the most common sources of omega 3 is in oily fish. As such, the government recommends that we consume 2 portions of oily fish a week. This level of consumption ensures a good level of omega 3 in the diet. However studies suggest that the British public struggle to achieve this.

Examples of oily fish include tinned or fresh salmon and mackerel and fresh tuna. During the canning process of tuna, unfortunately the omega 3 goodness is lost. In my previous blog, I give some examples for including oily fish in your diet, to help achieve good levels of vitamin D. This can very easily double up for omega 3 as well. So for the past few, weeks while I didn’t have my supplement, I tried to have a mackerel wrap for lunch slightly more often.

I also cooked salmon fillet for my tea on several occasions. A salmon fillet is very versatile, quick and easy to cook. It can be either pan fried, grilled, steamed or roasted in the oven. I generally serve mine alongside a vegetable and noodle stir fry or with some roasted sweet potato and salad.

The most nutritious way to cook salmon is to steam it, as the cooking process seals in all the vital nutrients, without washing them away in the water. This also goes for cooking vegetables as well. However, one of my guilty pleasures is some good crispy salmon skin, and as we all deserve some treats every now and again, I will sometimes pan fry mine with some olive oil.

Salmon, Vegetable & Noodle Stir Fry

For a very quick and nutritious meal ready in 15 mins:

  1. Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat, using a splash of olive oil (or rapeseed oil if you want to get in any extra omega 3).
  2. Grate some fresh garlic and ginger in to the pan.  Add some sliced up chilli if you want it spicy.
  3. Throw in your chopped up vegetables. I tend to use a mix of carrot, onion, pepper and kale or broccoli, but you can literally use anything that you have to hand and needs using up.
  4. Stir the pan frequently while the veg cooks, it should take approx 5 mins.
  5. For noodles I generally use the packs of straight to wok noodles you can buy, as you just need to add them to the pan with a minute to go and continue to stir. You may however prefer to use the dried version, cook them separately and add them in at the end.
  6. Before serving, splash in some soy sauce and lime juice, then enjoy.

While you are cooking this, don’t forget your salmon!

  • Lightly season the fillet, I use Chinese 5 spice for some extra flavour, but you could just use salt and pepper.

If pan frying:

  1. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over a high heat.
  2. When the pan is really hot place the fillet skin side down in the pan.
  3. Cooking time varies depending on size of fillet, but a good guide is 3 mins skin side down, then flip and cook for a further 1 min 30 seconds.

If steaming:

  1. Place in steamer for 6-8 mins.

Alternative Sources of Omega 3

Linseeds, sometimes known as flax seeds, are a good plant based source of omega 3, as are walnuts. So another quick and simple way of increasing your omega 3 intake is to sprinkle these on your breakfast cereal, porridge or overnight oats. Alternatively, have them as a topping on soups or salads. With all this in mind, there should be no reason why we can’t achieve a good level of omega 3 in our diet. This will help us to be fit and healthy, without the need for a supplement. Unless like me, you need higher levels of it to help combat exercise induced asthma.

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