Omega-3s For All!Posted: December 2, 2011
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural Free From Food Festival in London where I gave a cooking demonstration of a Christmassy take on my banana bread: Cranberry Orange Bread. It went over very well with the crowd, despite very windy and cold conditions! But I’m happy to say, the bread came out beautifully in the small convection oven Caroline, the organizer, brought with her to the demonstration tent. When our train was stopped outside Putney station for half an hour on Sunday coming home from the festival, I ended up sharing the cakey bread around with my fellow frustrated passengers which seemed to lighten the mood a bit!
Here’s a quick video of some of Sunday’s demo, if you’d like to see my Britney microphone in action 🙂
This video does not include the part where I forgot to add the “flax egg” to my cake mixture before placing it in the oven! Fortunately, I realized soon enough to salvage it, but man what a blunder. While the finished product would have been fine without the addition of flax, it’s nice to have the added insurance in the baking process (to help bind the mixture together) but also for the nutritional value of the seeds. It got me thinking about omega 3’s, an area of confusion to many. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who aren’t sure what omega-3’s actually are or where they come from but have heard that they are important to the diet. Are you confused too? Let me see if I can help.
Essential Fatty Acids
Without getting too “science nerd” here, I’d like to break it down to the simplest terms possible. There are good fats and there are bad fats. The bad ones are found in deep fried foods, margarine & spreads, and commercial oils. This includes trans fats, which are present in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as soybean oil (get to know your ingredients labels – this is in a LOT of processed foods). These bad fats are the reason people think they should be eating low-fat or fat-free foods, but this is slightly inaccurate. What is key to a healthy diet is replacing the bad with the good. Instead of just eliminating fat from your diet altogether, better to get rid of the nasty stuff and put back in the nice stuff.
And the nice stuff, as you may have guessed, includes omega-3 fatty acids, one of the essential fatty acids. Why are they essential? Because they are required for human health but aren’t manufactured in the body, so they have to come from our food. Omega-3s, found in certain types of fish, nuts, and seeds, are anti-inflammatory, while omega-6s, found in meats and soybean oil, tend to promote inflammation. Since most Western diets, particularly the Standard American Diet, are quite high in omega-6s, it is important that we get the right balance with the omega-3s. The ratio for optimal health is around 2:1 (omega-6 to omega-3); in other words, for every 2 grams of meat you consume, make sure you grab a gram of walnuts too.
- extra virgin olive oil
- oily fish, such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, wild salmon, and halibut
- flaxseeds and flaxseed oil (also known as linseed)
- krill oil
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
- pastured eggs
- grass fed meats
- pumpkin seeds
Zesty Salmon with Pepper & Mushroom Lentils
- 2 wild salmon fillets
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup black or brown lentils, cooked
- 1 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil
- 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small yellow chili, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Whisk the orange zest, juice, and olive oil with some sea salt and black pepper. Pour over the salmon fillets, rub into the flesh a bit, and place in an ovenproof dish. When the oven is heated, place the salmon in and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a skillet over a medium heat and add the onion. Saute for a few minutes, then add the garlic, chili (if using), and green pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened and slightly browned. Add the mushrooms and cumin and cook for 1 more minute before taking off the heat and combining with the cooked lentils. Stir through the sunflower seeds and liquid aminos or tamari before serving with the salmon.