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Sure things for fat loss, part 3: The Omega-3's

Writing a series of lessons on "sure things" for fat loss is not as easy as you'd think. There are so many opinions about the "right way" to eat for getting leaner, that getting all the experts to agree on anything occurs about as often as Haley's comet flies by.

Even the subject of dietary fat is hugely controversial. Just try mentioning "saturated fat is bad for you" in a nutrition forum these days and you'll see exactly what I mean.

But when it comes to one particular type of fat, the vote is virtually unanimous: Omega-3 fatty acids are sure things for your health. Even better: Scientists are beginning to uncover the important roles they play in the fat burning process as well.

Omega-3 fatty acids are labeled "essential" because your body can't manufacture them, so you must get them from the food you eat (much like certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals).

Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from plant or animal sources.

The richest animal source of omega-3 is fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, rainbow trout, sardines or herring.

The fat in fish contains two important long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These appear to be the major players responsible for the biological activity in fish oil that produces the long list of benefits.

The richest plant sources of omega-3 fats are flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. Flaxseed contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which your body can convert into DHA and EPA.

The list of potential health benefits from eating these "good fats" is so long, that if you couldn't look up the scientific references to confirm them for yourself, you would swear I was just pulling your leg.

Peer-reviewed research has been published on fish oil and omega-3 fats for the treatment, management or prevention of ALL these conditions:

cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, inflammatory diseases, joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney disease, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer's, asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sickle cell anemia, glaucoma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cirrhosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, menstrual symptoms, psoriasis, diabetes, insulin resistance, migraines, response to stress, bipolar disorder, depression, psychological disorders, and metabolic syndrome. Okay, so omega 3 fats are healthy stuff, we can all agree on that!

Here's why I also suggest that omega-3 fats should be added to the list of "sure things for fat loss":

At least a half a dozen human studies and more than two dozen animal studies in the last 10 years suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may help you burn more fat or at the very least that they play an important role in the fat burning process, or that a deficiency could inhibit fat burning. Some studies found that omega 3 fats may function as fuel partitioners and increase fat oxidation. This means that omega-3's shift glucose toward glycogen storage and direct fatty acids away from body fat formation and toward fatty acid oxidation.

Omega-3 fatty acids also enhance the expression of the Uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) gene in skeletal muscle. Scientists say that this may indirectly increase energy expenditure by dissipating calories as heat. Other potential mechanisms include increased sensitivity to the "anti starvation hormone" leptin, decreased insulin, reduced fat cell proliferation and improved cell membrane fluidity. It's an exciting area of research and a highly publicized one as well.

If you pay attention to the news or read any fitness or nutrition literature, you probably already know about the benefits of omega-3 fats - it's no secret anymore.

What's shocking is the fact that most people are still deficient in omega-3 fats, according to the latest statistics.

As with that other "super food" - vegetables - most people seem to know that they "should" be eating more healthy fats, but they still don't do it. This gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it is a real problem, when it's so easy to take advantage of the benefits of this incredible "power nutrient."

Here are 7 tips that can accommodate both vegetarians and fish eaters alike:

1) eat fatty fish at least twice per week and even daily if practical and economical for you. If not, you could supplement with fish oil (2-3 grams of combined DHA/EPA daily)

2) Omega 6 fatty acids are also essential, but most people have an unbalanced omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. This can be remedied by increasing the omega 3 consumption and or reducing the omega 6 consumption (by decreasing intake of processed foods, refined grains, and supermarket cooking oils, with the exception of extra virgin olive oil)

3) grind up flaxseeds and sprinkle them on salads or add them to oatmeal, protein shakes or morning cereals. Alternately, supplement with flaxseed oil; 1 tbsp is equivalent to 3 tbsp flaxseeds (use as a supplement; Not for cooking)

4) snack on walnuts, which contain modest amounts of omega 3 fats

5) increase your consumption of leafy greens which contain small amounts of omega 3 fats.

6) if you eat red meat, try game meats or grass fed beef or bison. they dont have nearly the quantity of omega-3 as marine sources, but they are higher in omega-3 and have a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than conventionally raised and fed beef.

7) Try omega-3 fortified eggs instead of regular eggs.

See how easy it is to get more omega-3? With all the health benefits stacked on top of the potential fat loss benefits, you simply can't go wrong by making this one change to your diet program - eat more omega 3... it's a sure thing!


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