Falling Hook, Line and Sinker for Omega-3
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
A new report has revealed that foods fortified with omega-3 fats such as milk, spreads, eggs and bread may not be as beneficial as we think they are, despite being more expensive.
According to the International Cod Liver Omega-3 Foundation, a new organisation that consists of academics, nutritionists and healthcare professionals, many of these products contain only tiny quantities of omega-3 fats. However, 60 percent of shoppers believe such products can make a significant difference to their health.
Although there is currently no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for omega-3 fats in the UK, the foundation suggests a daily intake of 450mg a day for adults and 200mg for children.
For an adult to reach these amounts by relying on foods fortified with omega-3 fats, the foundation says they would need to eat 16 slices of fortified bread, 5 omega-3 enriched eggs, six omega-3 drinks or a litre of omega-3 enriched milk each day!
Jane Griffin, dietitian and a member of the foundation says, “I’m worried that consumers may be under the false impression that they’re getting sufficient quantities of omega-3 simply by using a fortified spread or eating an omega-3 enriched egg every day. The reality, of course, is that many of these fortified foods often contain fairly insignificant levels of omega-3, meaning that consumers would need to eat huge amounts to achieve any health benefits, even in conjunction with other enhanced foods.”
It’s well established that a good intake of omega-3 fats can help to keep the heart, joints and brain healthy. There’s also evidence that omega-3s may ease the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as eczema and asthma and even reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
There are two main sources of omega-3 fats in the diet – oily fish and plant foods such as nuts and seeds.
The omega-3 fats found in plant foods need to be converted into another form before they can be used by the body. In contrast, the omega-3 fats in oily fish are in a form the body can easily use and so they are considered to be the most effective. Worryingly though, only a quarter of adults eat oily fish and therefore are unlikely to get enough omega-3 in their diets. As a result, many of us are now turning to omega-3 enriched foods to boost our intakes.
However, if this new report is to be believed, fortified products aren’t the solution. Ultimately, it would seem we’re better off getting all the nutrients we need from natural foods.
Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, salmon, trout and fresh tuna are the best sources of omega-3 fats that are most readily available to the body. Eating just one portion a week, as is recommended by the Food Standards Agency, easily provides most of the omega-3s you need to stay healthy – 100g salmon, for example, contains 2,300mg of omega-3 fats. Similarly, 100g sardines or pilchards provides 2,200mg, 100g mackerel contains 2,000mg, 100g fresh tuna packs in 1,600mg and 100g rainbow trout provides 1,200mg.
In the meantime, if you’re worried about the calories in oily fish, check out our calorie counter.
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