You’ve heard plenty of times that healthy fats – specifically omega-3s – are good for you, just like you know you should eat veggies, take your probiotics and floss your teeth. But with so much nutrition jargon out there, sometimes it can be hard to remember and understand why those healthy fats are actually beneficial.
I don’t know about you, but when I understand the why behind something, it makes me feel a whole lot more compelled to do it. When I see and feel the benefits, that makes me even more committed. With this in mind, I thought a little omega-3s 101 would be a fun idea for today, and because I’m all about the practical application, the delish recipe I’ve got for you is absolutely loaded with them!
First things first: why are omega-3 healthy fats important?
They’re not just important, they’re essential – and I’m sure you’ve heard this word quite a bit too. When it comes to nutrition, essential typically means our bodies can’t make something on their own. Because we can’t produce our own omega-3 fatty acids, we need to get them from food and/or supplementation, but ideally food when possible.
There’s 3 of them:
- ALA – alpha-linoleic acid: Found in some nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef and a few other plant-based foods
- DHA – docosahexaenoic acid: Found in cold water oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines
- EPA – eicosapentaenoic acid: Also found in oily fish.
Different supplements and food sources of omega-3s have different ratios of those 3 acids, and the important thing to know is that while the body can convert ALA into DHA and EPA, it’s not always super efficient at doing so. DHA and EPA are more absorbable which is why those on a 100% plant-based diet can often be deficient. It’s also important to know that DHA and EPA from food is typically better absorbed than supplements.
What are the benefits?
If there’s only one you remember, make it that omega-3 fatty acids have BIG anti-inflammatory properties. This makes them beneficial for preventing and dealing with a huge range of inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular/heart conditions, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain and digestive disorders. Note that you don’t have to have a diagnosed condition to benefit though – we all experience inflammation in some form or another, so a diet that regularly incorporates omega-3s is a great one to adopt.
Other benefits that studies have found include:
- Improved mood and reduction in depression symptoms
- Improved immune system function
- Healthier skin (Dr. Chris Kresser has a great article about this here.)
What foods are good sources?
You’ve probably seen everything from non-dairy beverages to cookies fortified with omega-3s. This is great, but there’s a whole lot of processing and purification that goes into that process. Ideally, your omega-3 intake comes from foods that are naturally rich in these fats because it’s this type that’s best absorbed and utilized by our bodies. Here’s a bunch to add to your grocery list:
- Fatty fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, anchovies (wild caught fish is always your best bet as the diet of farm-raised fish is far less nutrient-dense)
- Fish oil and cod liver oil
- Flax seeds (note that these are a great source of omega-3s, but you need to grind the whole seeds – ideally just before using – in order to be able to digest them properly and reap the benefits)
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Egg yolks
Note that plant-based foods including edamame, kale, Brussels sprouts, Brazil nuts, cashews, and hemp seeds are all good sources of ALA, but as mentioned above, ALA isn’t converted very efficiently to DHA and EPA. This is why it’s a good idea to get a wide variety of sources in order to keep your bases covered.
Speaking of a wide variety, you’ll find all sorts of omega-3-rich foods in the Mega Omega Salmon Bowls I’ve got for you today. Under the salmon is a nice little pillow of greens and cauliflower rice mixed with fragrant fresh herbs, edamame and miso ginger dressing Everything gets a generous smattering of hemp seeds and walnuts, and the result is one of the most omega-3 rich creations I think I’ve ever made. It’s also miiiighty tasty, but don’t take my word for it – give it a try and let me know what you think!
Mega Omega Salmon Bowl
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Ingredients (2 servings)
- 1 cup cauliflower rice, made by pulsing raw cauliflower in a food processor
- 2 tbsp each fresh basil and mint, chiffonade cut (or very thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1/3 cup shelled defrosted edamame
- 2 cups chopped mixed greens (I recommend using sturdy ones – I used a braising blend of different types of kale and collard greens)
- 2 tsp hemp seeds
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets, about 140g each
- 1/4 cup walnut pieces
- sunflower sprouts, to garnish
For the miso ginger dressing (you may have some leftover):
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 tbsp white miso
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- water, to thin as neeed
Make the dressing: Whirl all ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Add water as needed to thin, then transfer to a jar.
In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower rice, fresh herbs, purple cabbage, edamame, and a few tbsp of the dressing. Set aside to let the flavours develop.
Mist a frying pan lightly with avocado oil (or olive oil, if you don’t have any). Add the mixed greens, about 1 tbsp dressing and 2 tbsp water. Cook the greens, stirring frequently until just wilted – about 2 minutes. They should still be bright in colour. Divide between 2 serving bowls.
Return the pan to the heat and re-mist it if it looks dry. Place the salmon fillets inside, skin side up. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until you can see from the side that the flesh is cooked to about 3/4 of the way from the bottom of each. Flip each fillet and cook another 2 minutes with the skin side down, then remove from the stove.
Divide the cauliflower rice mixture between the 2 bowls, serving it on top of the greens. Remove the skin from the salmon and place one fillet on top of each mound.
Sprinkle with walnuts, hemp seeds and sunflower sprouts. Drizzle remaining dressing on top if desired.
Now over to you. Let’s hear… what’s your favourite way to get your healthy fats?