Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

If you've ever had the chance to look at dietary guidelines, you may notice there is a split between advice based on nutritional values and advice that has more to do with the food groups themselves. There are positives and negatives to both. For example, with the food group approach, most people can easily relate as food is what is eaten and not the nutrients themselves. This may be easier to understand for many. The problem with this is that the nutritional value of food groups is mixed and may vary from one source to another. Consider "healthy" fast food, like Chipotle Grill, traditional Mexican food. Nowdays, its so easy to have Chipotle Delivered via Postmates, it makes it hard to avoid tempation. It can be a good part of a healthy diet, but keep things like Omega-2 fatty acids in mind.

If you were to strictly follow the food group advice, one could easily consider a filet of tuna to be equivalent nutritionally to that of a serving of shrimp. Clearly, both of these protein sources are considered seafood, though the nutritional value of each item is quite different. Cholesterol and saturated fats are most likely going to be elevated in the shrimp as opposed to tuna (which has its own issues like mercury for example).

Strictly following diet through the nutritional approach is also bound to cause problems. With 12 vitamins, 3 macronutrients, and 6 (or more) important minerals to keep track of, it can get quite confusing when trying to plan out your diet from this perspective.

According to food group standards, people should consume 8 ounces of seafood to meet nutritional recommendations of 250 mg per day (1750 mg per week) of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Similar to what we already went over, the problem with this approach is that depending on the choice of seafood, intake of omega-3 fatty acids can vary tremendously.

For example, if you decided to have a 3 ounce serving of shrimp or oven-baked tilapia, you would end up consuming roughly 426 mg of omega-3 (only 1/3 of recommendation). Other low sources of omega 3 include squid, whiting, clam, flounder, crayfish, cod, lobster, Pollock, catfish, perch, and snapper.

If instead, you went for a 3 ounce serving of herring, mackerel, salmon, or caviar, you would end up consuming at least 1750 mg of omega-3 and meeting your recommended intake for the entire week. Swordfish and tilefish are also great sources of omega-3 but they have high levels of mercury (good to eat once in a while). So, as you can see – even if you follow the guidelines of consuming an 8 ounce serving of seafood, your intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can vary tremendously.

For reasons such as these, supplementing can make your life easier. I'm not usually a big fan of supplements, but when it comes to certain super foods and super nutrients, supplementing may be a good idea. Considering how many health benefits there are from consuming adequate levels of omega-3's, this is one nutrient you'd be better off not to forget about. If you don't consume enough seafood or your seafood choices typically consist of items low in long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, a high-quality fish oil supplement may be all that is needed to bring you up to speed. The best fish oil supplements should have the proper ratio of EPA and DHA.

Fish Oil and Omega 3 supplementation

Purity and freshness are two very important characteristics to consider before buying a fish oil supplement. It is not uncommon for companies to unknowingly (or even intentionally) sell you rancid fish oil. Not only is this unhealthy for you, but can even be dangerous. Others fail to filter out the various toxic substances that may be found in seafood (including mercury). Without proper filtration of these impurities, you may be unintentionally ingesting harmful heavy metals or other dangerous substances.

Remember, a supplement is often just a highly concentrated form of traditional foods. Higher-rated fish oil supplements go through a strict purification process. An alternative to fish oil is krill oil (which I personally take myself in capsule form) – not because it is advantageous but because I have found a decent brand for half the price of what I would pay for a good fish oil supplement.

V is for Victorious Vegetables

I love my greens and almost every other vegetable on the planet. I could quite easily be a vegetarian. However, as I have a number of meat lovers in my home, this would mean preparing different meals for the family every night. So we have the perfect compromise: The Flexi Veggie.

The Flexi Veggie regime involves eating meat or fish four or five days a week and then having 2 or 3 days of vegetarian or meatless meals. As proteins can be sourced from both animal and plants this makes it possible to obtain enough proteins from plants like legumes nuts, and seeds. And do you know what, it's really tasty!  

We can certainly choose to live without meat, but can we live without eating a single vegetable? Not me anyway and yet according to recent statistics, fruit and vegetable consumption is falling. This alarms me, particularly given the light that is always shone on vegetable goodness!  

I is for Importance

Vegetables form part of a balanced diet, as they are an excellent source of micronutrients, which are better known as essential minerals and vitamins. Essential means that our bodies cannot make these particular nutrients and therefore the only way for a healthy person to get them is via the food we eat.

There are approximately fifteen essential minerals and thirteen vitamins (many working together and each playing a vital role in keeping us healthy). Not eating enough vegetables, or their sugary sibling, the fruit, can increase your risk for health problems later on in life, including heart disease, strokes, some cancer, and poor bone health. On a day to day basis, vegetables provide energy, glossy hair and clear skin. Likewise, the fiber consumed through eating vegetables (especially when they are unpeeled) helps to keep our gut working efficiently, preventing constipation.

Now isn't that enough reason why we should eat vegetables?  

F is for Five a Day

We are all familiar with the World Health Organization's guidelines of 'Five a Day'. It's pushed down our throats every day.

However, there are other guidelines which you may not have heard of. In fact, the WHO recommends that of the 'Five a Day', at least three should be made up of vegetable portions. This is because of the high sugar content in fruit (I have written on this before should you want to dig deeper).

The NHS Eatwell Plate recommends that 33% of food eaten on a daily basis should come from fruit and vegetables.

Furthermore, the famous Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid suggests a minimum of three servings a day of fruit and four servings a day of vegetables.

The Havard School of Medicine goes a little further and suggests between five and, a whopping, thirteen portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

There's no doubt that we need to get our vegetable intake up. Planning several meals each week with vegetables at center stage is key.

P is for Portion

I have written about portion sizes before, but I am love, love, loving this handy resource from the NHS which tells you exactly what a fruit and vegetable portion size is. 3 'whole' baby beetroots? Half a baguette? 3 stalks of celery?  sPrint it out, pin it up and get aware.

B is for Barriers

There are often claims that the rising cost of fruit and vegetables act as barriers to eating vegetables. Likewise, I often hear protests relating to the difficulty in preparing veggies. B is for Bull, in my opinion. Nowadays frozen and selective tinned vegetables e.g. tomatoes can retain most of the nutrients and are cheap and easy to prepare.

However, there are other barriers. A new study has thrown some insight into the reason why some children (and if not addressed, many adults) will not eat their vegetables. Call them fussy if you want, but you might be wrong as University College London researcher Professor Jane Wardle discovered recently.

While a fondness for chocolate, crisps and all that unhealthy processed food that children like, can be blamed on the home environment, Wardle found that genes are to blame for disliking the taste of the average vegetables. So parents, we can stop feeling guilty for children not liking their greens! But you're not off the hook quite yet. If your children prefer processed foods, including unhealthy snacks, chocolates and confectionary, that is your fault!! Professor Wardle who conducted the research which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported that further work shows that giving a child a tiny amount of a disliked vegetable every day for ten days could make all the difference. So get working!  

C is for Cooking (your Veg)

Think you're getting the full complement of nutrients from the last carrot you ate? Think again! Did you store, prepare and cook that carrot correctly, because if you didn't, the nutrients could well have been thrown out with the water they were cooked in. At risk is the vitamin content of vegetables, along with the critical positioning of the micro nutrients and fiber.

Once you know the golden rules, your efforts to keep healthy via the vegetable consumption route will be rewarded.

Rule 1: Store most vegetables in dark, cool places.

Rule 2: Avoid peeling potatoes and peel other vegetables thinly. Why? The skin contains the roughage or fiber for healthy gut movement and the nutrients lie close to the skin's surface.

Rule 3: Steam, stir-fry, bake or cook your vegetables in stews. Only boil vegetables if you intend to use the water to make gravy and sauces. Why? Most vitamins are either water or fat soluble, meaning the vitamins dissolve into the water or fat/oil when cooked.

With nine different vegetable groups including root to stem, with hundreds of varieties within each group, with frozen, tinned and fresh options available, there is no excuse for not eating vegetables. Now repeat after me… V is for Victorious Vegetables!  

Anyone Can Learn to Cook, Here's How

'I don't have time to cook, 'I can't cook' and 'I'm afraid to cook, I might mess up' are some of the most common excuses people use to avoid cooking at home. By choosing to eat ready meals, frozen dinners and takeaways, people are not only missing out on the health benefits of home cooked meals, but the joy of cooking too! Cooking is a very rewarding experience and here we will explain how anyone can learn to do it.

Cooking doesn't have to be difficult!

Prioritizing cooking time. Don't think you have the time to cook? We bet you do! All it takes is a little prioritizing and a shift in mindset. In order for this to work, you need to make learning to cook one of your key priorities. If it is something that is important to you, you will be able to find the time to do it.

A great way to go about this is to make a list of the things you do every day and how long it takes you to do them. You can then prioritize your routine, looking at what activities are most important to you and what you can cut down on in order to make time to cook yourself a healthy dinner. It will be much easier than you think!  

Learn to cook by starting out small

Cooking is not all about making fancy recipes that chefs have raved about in their latest cookbooks. If you are just learning to cook, you'll need to start out small. Think about cooking a meal that has simple, minimal ingredients. You don't necessarily need to follow a recipe, but if you choose to, try to think of it as a guide, rather than 'the rules.'

Cooking is not about studying and following recipes, but learning and experimenting by trying out new things. The more regularly you cook for yourself, the quicker you will progress. Make sure you have stocked up on basic ingredients, as well as things like herbs and spices, which you can swap in and out of your dishes to give them variety.

It is a good idea to stock up on herbs and spices from your local supermarket. You'll find them all on the same shopping aisle.

Forget cooking 'techniques'

Don't feel intimidated by cooking techniques. So what if you don't know what a particular kitchen utensil is for or how to use it? Utilize a process of trial and error. It doesn't matter if you are using your spaghetti-straining spoon to get your vegetables out of the pan, it'll do the job just fine!  

As long as you are not chopping your fingers off, who cares how you cut your vegetables or what shape they end up? You are in your kitchen and what you say goes! Try not to get hung up on techniques and instead concentrate on learning about what flavors seem to work well together and work on perfecting your timing.

Don't be afraid!

The key to learning to cook is to throw all of your fear out of the window and just go for it. Fortunately, cooking allows margins for error and even if you do make mistakes, you'll know not to make them next time. There is also no need to panic if you get things a little wrong, simply log onto your computer, click onto YouTube and find a quick tutorial to watch.

As times goes on you will build up your confidence and things that will have seemed difficult in the past will be easy as pie! Before long you will have lost your local takeaway's number and will be making healthy and delicious dishes that rival those of any amateur cooks' out there.