Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish, seafood and some seeds. These fatty acids have been associated with improving mood, benefiting the skin (decreasing eczema and acne) and improving inflammatory conditions such as joint pain. New research is also finding that these substances may improve your IQ!
One interesting study found that aging humans who consumed higher levels omega-3s had increased gray matter brain volume and that most new tissue development was observed in the part of the brain associated with happiness.
Similar findings appeared in the journal Lancet. In a very large human study, scientists analyzed the diets of 12,000 pregnant women. The study found that children of those mothers who consumed the least omega-3 were 48% more likely to score in the lowest quartile on IQ tests.
Another study revealed when male teenagers ate fish more than once a week their combined intelligence scores were on average 12 per cent higher than those who ate fish less than once a week!!
Take the Quiz below (Adapted by Mark Hyman, MD) to find out if you are deficient in this important nutrient:
FATTY ACIDS QUIZ
I have soft, cracked or brittle nails. yes/no
I have dry, itchy, scaling, or flaking skin. yes/no
I have hard ear wax. yes/no
I have chicken skin (tiny bumps on back of arms or on the trunk) yes/no
I have dandruff. yes/no
I feel aching or stiffness in my joints. yes/no
I am thirsty most of the time. yes/no
I am constipated (have less than two bowel movements a day). yes/no
I have light-coloured, hard, or foul-smelling stools. yes/no
I have depression, ADHD, and/or memory loss. yes/no
I have high blood pressure. yes/no
I have fibrocystic breasts. yes/no
I have premenstrual syndrome. yes/no
I have high LDL cholesterol, low HDL levels, and high triglycerides. yes/no
I am of North Atlantic genetic background: Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Scandinavian, or coastal Native American. yes/no
Scoring Key-Fatty Acids
Score (number of yes answers)
8 and above
If you suspect you are low in omega 3 Fatty Acids talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about how to increase dietary consumption and what supplements may be best for you! It is important to use a high quality fish oil supplement to avoid contaminants such as mercury.
Preparing for pregnancy can involve preparing financially, spiritually, physically and nutritionally. Whether you are having difficulty conceiving or are consciously preparing for pregnancy, diet is very important. What we eat can influence fertility, affect hormones and later, affect the fetus. More and more woman are wishing to be pregnant at later stages of life. As our fertility peaks in our early 20s and begins declining in our late 20’s, many woman who are 30 plus often are interested in foods that can boost their chances of conceiving. (May I add that woman who choose to wait for babies can still have very healthy and happy pregnancies !! ) So without further ado please find my top 5 dietary recommendations for fertility:
Eat Organic as much as possible a year before conceiving. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and therefore harmful to humans. Children are actually four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults. Many toxins used in pesticides are also known hormone disruptors. Some of the chemicals that are used in pesticides are fat soluble, meaning that they can be stored in our fat cells for long periods of time. Therefore it is best to avoid these chemicals as long as possible before becoming pregnant to minimize the exposure of the growing fetus to these toxins found on conventional produce.
Increase consumption of nutritious seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Nutritional deficiencies of zinc and B6 can affect fertility. Sunflower seeds are a good source of B6 and other trace minerals and pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of zinc amongst other minerals. You can add these seeds to cereals, salads or even buy (pumpkin or sunflower) seed butter and spread it on toast.
Make you sure your iron intake is adequate. The best way to find out if your iron levels are high enough is to have your ferritin levels measured through blood. Ferritin levels lower than 70 can decrease fertility and can also lead to anemia throughout pregnancy. Red meat is the best source of iron (opt for grass fed, organic). Dark leafy green veggies, beans, legumes and molasses also are higher in iron and cooking in a cast iron pan can also increase the iron levels of the foods that are cooked in them. Some individuals, despite their best nutritional efforts still have low iron and need to take an iron supplement.
Eat a diet rich in omega 3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats are great for the brain, help to balance hormones and also lead to better birth outcomes for the baby. Aim for 2-3 servings of low mercury fish (sardines, anchovies and mackerel are best), chia seeds, flax and walnuts and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil daily. Make sure the fish oil has been third party tested for mercury and other heavy metals and the source of the fish is from mackerel, anchovies and/or sardines.
Aim to eat low- medium glycemic index carbohydrates. When we consume carbohydrates they are broken down into sugars that provides energy to our cells. Some carbohydrates break down into more sugars than others and these certain carbohydrates can affect our insulin levels, thus affecting our hormones. Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates such as rice bran and other whole grains and bright coloured vegetables. Avoid high glycemic index foods such as refined sugars, white breads, white rice and white pastas.
Studies have found that consumption of linoleic acids (an essential fatty acid) and vitamin C decrease drying and wrinkling of the skin. Linoleic acid plays a key role here because once ingested, linoleic acid turns into gamma linolenic acid also known as GLA. Through a series of steps, GLA is eventually converted to prostaglandin 1, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and is also effective in regulating water loss and protecting the skin from damage. You can also supplement with evening primrose oil or borage oil, both contain high amounts of GLA. Watch my video with the wonderful Kristen Ma to learn more about evening primrose oil here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-ClA89C-K0.
Walnuts contain both linoleic acid and omega 3 fatty acids. This is excellent because in our western diets we tend to have a higher amount of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 and this can cause an imbalance. Additionally, some of the major sources of omega 6 fatty acids in the western diet come from corn, wheat and soy bean oil. These have been heavily modified and now cause digestive and health problems for many individuals.
A handful of walnuts make a great snack, or can be added on top of a salad or are great additions when baking healthy treats.