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No doubt about it: seafood can be good for your health. Overall, it has less total fat and less saturated fat than meat and poultry. For this reason, eating fish regularly may help lower your blood cholesterol levels. Moreover, seafood supplies several vitamins and minerals. Recently there's been interest in the functional food benefits provided by the omega-3 fatty acid content of fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids-polyunsaturated fatty acids of a somewhat different structure-are found mostly in seafood, especially higher-fat, cold-water varieties such as mackerel, albacore tuna, salmon, sardines, Atlantic herring, swordfish, and lake trout. Flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil, as well as walnuts, supply omega-3s, too, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, which converts to omega-3s. And some eggs have more omega-3s if the chicken feed supplied it.

Research suggests that omega-3s may help thin blood and prevent blood platelets from clotting and sticking to artery walls. That, in turn, may help lower the risk for blocked blood vessels and heart attacks and strokes. Omega-3s may help prevent arteries from hardening, lower levels of triglycerides, and modestly reduce blood pressure levels.

Even if scientific evidence eventually completely understands the link, omega-3 fatty acids by themselves aren't a magic remedy for heart disease-and you can't simply add them to your meals and snacks to get the potential benefits. Combined with eating less saturated fat in an overall healthful diet, they may have a protective effect. Researchers are exploring other links between omega-3 fatty acids and health: eye health, rheumatoid arthritis, and immunity. Stay tuned!

To enjoy nutritional and omega-3s' benefits from some seafood, make fish a regular part of your eating style; try to eat fatty fish twice weekly (8 ounces total per week). And try using foods with omega-3s in place of foods with more saturated fats.

Although fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, they're not advised as a substitute for fish-or as a dietary supplement for most people. Popping a fish oil capsule won't undo the effects of an otherwise unhealthful diet. Instead, enjoy fish for its nutritional benefits, flavor-and variety in your eating style. The American Heart Association advises a fish oil capsule for some people with elevated triglycerides-and under a physician's care.

What about omega-6s (polyunsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils)? They, too, may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk by helping to lower total and LDL-cholesterol blood levels; however, they also may lower HDL levels.

Another fatty acid-conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)-may offer functional benefits, too. CLAs are found in dairy foods and some meat products (beef, lamb). Research is exploring a potential link to decreased risk for certain cancers and a role in improved body composition. Little human research has yet been done.

from animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, butter, whole milk, and whole milk products, and from coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.

Oil. Fat in liquid form.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that are highly polyunsaturated. They may help reduce blood clotting in the arteries and protect from hardening of the arteries. Mostly they come from seafood, especially fatty fish such as albacore tuna, mackerel, and salmon, and in the form of alpha-linoleic acid in walnuts, and soy, canola, and flaxseed oils.

Omega-6 (linoleic) fatty acids. Another group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They, too, may help promote heart health by lowering total and LDL

cholesterol. Vegetable oils—soybean, corn, saf-flower—are good sources. Trans fatty acids. One type of fatty acid, formed during the process of partial hydrogenation. Although they're found naturally in some foods, most trans fatty acids in the diet come from partially hydrogenated fats. In the body, man-made trans fats act like saturated fats and tend to raise blood cholesterol levels.

Hydrogenated fats. Unsaturated fats that are processed to make them more saturated, and stable and solid at room temperature—for example, in many packaged foods (such as crackers and cookies) and stick margarine. Hydrogen is added to their chemical makeup and makes them firmer and more saturated while

FATS AND OILS: HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

DIETARY FAT

Fatty odd toatenl rormaliied h 100 partant

Canola oil

E2 6)

11

21

Safflower oil

m>77

I

14

Flaxseed oil

a

57

IS

Sunflower oil

« -1

16 1

71

Corn oil

»

»

1

57

Olive oil

IS

1, 9

Soybean oil

IS

Î3

8

54

Peanul oil

14

«

-

33

Cottonseed oil

27

m

54

Lard

43

47

1

Palm oil

SI

39

■ 10

8utterfaf

M

1 38

1 3

Coconut oil

91

7 Ï

SATURATED FAT

MO NOUN SATURATED FAT

POLYUNSATURATED Ml

"Ime

SOURCE: POSPILOTPLANTCORPORATION; www.canolainfo.org.

  • ApKhitoMtfcU □ iiralelc Arid
  • or CktiBflD'3 Fatty Aud) Con Dinegò tdil

• Fats made mostly of saturated fatty acids usually are solid at room temperature. Animal-based foods and tropical vegetable oils (coconut, palm kernel, and palm) contain mainly saturated fatty acids. In general, harder and more stable fats are more saturated. They include butter, stick margarine, shortening, and the fat in cheese and meat.

extending their shelf life. The extent of hydrogenation determines whether there's a little or a lot of trans fats.

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