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Foods high in heart-healthy omega-3s

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Omega-3 heart health

Although many fats are detrimental to your health - not to mention your waistline - there are some fats that are good for you and even necessary to live a healthy life. One of the best fats is the omega-3s, those heart-healthy fats found in flaxseed, nuts, soy and fatty fish. These superstar unsaturated fats not only deliver multiple health benefits, they are abundant in some of the most delicious foods around. Here's what you need to know about omega-3s and a few heart-healthy omega-3-rich recipes.

Carrot Cake Muffins

Omega-3 basics

You could read the growing number of studies and books on omega-3s and their health benefits, but all you really need to know about these super fats is this streamlined version of key points:

  • In non-scientific terms, omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning that we need to find food sources containing them because our bodies do not make them.
  • Polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3s, stay liquid at both room temperature and when cold, unlike saturated fats, such as butter, or monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
  • Omega-3s are renowned for their beneficial effect on cardiovascular, having been shown to reduce the occurrence of heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
  • Research has also found that omega-3s can alleviate some symptoms of depression, joint pain, and even attention deficit disorder.
  • Omega-3s can boost the immune system, offering protection from many illnesses and promoting optimum health.
  • Research is currently underway to determine if there is a specified daily recommended amount for adults.
  • Flaxseeds are probably the highest source of omega-3s, with walnuts coming in as a close second. Next comes salmon, soybeans and halibut.
  • Shrimp, tofu, snapper, scallops, squash, cauliflower, cabbage, cod, tuna, kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts also have a good amount of omega-3s.
  • When preparing omega-3-rich foods, cook this simply by baking, steaming, or roasting and dressing them with light seasoning and olive oil. Deep frying them or coating them in heavy sauces or butter will counter their health-promoting properties.

Heart healthy Recipes high in omega-3s

Baked Honey Glazed Salmon

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a small bowl, mix shallots, rosemary, honey, honey mustard, salt and red pepper.

3. Lightly brush the salmon fillets with glaze and arrange on the baking sheet.

4. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

Walnut Shrimp

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
A few tablespoons of canola oil for sautéing
4 egg whites
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

Directions:
1. Combine water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the walnuts and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a skillet until hot. Whisk egg whites until fluffy then mix in the flour.

3. Dip shrimp in mixture and place in hot oil, in batches. Cook on both sides until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from oil and let drain on paper towels.

3. Combine honey with sweetened condensed milk and gently toss shrimp in mixture. Top with reserved walnuts.

Flaxseed Carrot Cake Muffins

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup grated carrot
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in a 12-cup cupcake pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites, sugar, milk, applesauce and vanilla until well combined. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flours, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda.

3. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. Gently stir in the pecans, raisins and carrots.

4. Spoon batter into the prepared cupcake tins and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack while preparing frosting.

4. To make frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. When cupcakes are fully cooled, spread frosting on top.

More on the health benefits of omega-3s

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