Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid found in fish and seafood. Find out more from Sammy and Bella and discover their favourite ways to incorporate it into your everyday cooking,
We’ve all heard those cringe worthy stories about well-meaning mums who have force fed their children spoons of cod liver oil, or worse yet, put the oil in a glass of orange juice. Ew! Even as an adult, that makes me feel sick.
Omega-3 is essential, which means that our body can’t produce it and it must be ingested. It’s a fatty acid that has a plethora of positive health benefits, and the two most important kinds (EPA and DHA) are especially beneficial for babies and children. It’s important for visual and neurological development in babies, and some research has also suggested that it can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Adults may also benefit, with positive effects on triglycerides (great for heart disease/cholesterol), hypertension, arthritis, depression, bipolar disorder, diabetes, asthma, and even Parkinson's, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
There are several kinds of omega-3, and the DHA and EPA are found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, swordfish, herrings, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and mussels. Wild caught fish are the best because the quantity of omega 3 in their flesh is directly related to their diet: if they eat algae and other sea plants which are high in omega-3. Also, try to avoid too much swordfish and albacore tuna as they may have higher levels of mercury. The other kind of omega-3 is called ALA, and is found in nuts and flaxseed – however this doesn’t provide the same health benefits.
So, great news if you’re a seafood lover! But what if you love fish, but not “fishy fish” like the ones listed above? Or what if you have fussy kids? There are supplements available, but it’s much better to eat the real thing. And if you’re clever, you can integrate these fish into your family’s diet without having anyone turn up their noses.
A normal healthy person should be eating 2-3 serves a week, and if you have a condition like coronary artery disease, you may want to increase your intake by up to 3 times.
Salmon and Ocean Trout are some of the most delicious fish around, and has by far the highest concentration of omega-3. The flavour is much milder if you steam it rather than bake or pan fry, plus, make sure you don’t over cook it. You can always mask the fishiness with stronger flavoured sauces such as soy/ginger/sesame oil. The BEST way to eat salmon is raw, as sashimi or even an Italian style crudo, or Mexican ceviche. Heat can damage omega-3, so raw is always best.
Anchovies get a bad wrap, but I’m a firm believer in “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”! Big chunks of anchovy on a pizza are always detected, but if you chop them up and melt them into a sauce then your diners will be none the wiser. In fact, it also makes the food taste better! Try adding a few fillets to your next bolognese or napoletana sauce. I also love mashing them with garlic and olive oil in a mortar and pestle, then rubbing over roast lamb, or mix into your salad dressings.
Herrings are a family favourite in our home, as our Polish grandparents always had them in the fridge! Pickled (aka soused) herrings can have a strong flavour, but we have a much milder recipe for you to try. We douse them in lots of yummy sour cream, fresh apple and dill.
Tuna (albacore) is one of those foods that tastes and smells much stronger if you cook it, so eating it at room temperature out of the tin, or fresh, is better. I just love making “tuna mayo” by simply blending the tinned tuna and mayo together with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s fantastic on sandwiches or alongside your favourite meats such as grilled chicken. Bluefin and yellow fin tuna also contains substantial amounts, but not nearly as much as albacore.
Mussels are one of my favourite foods, and work so well when steamed open with loads of different flavours. You can try them Belgian style with cider and smokey bacon, or Italian with tomato and chilli, or spice it up with a fiery lemongrass curry. I adore fresh mussels cooked on the bbq too – that smokey flavour goes down very well with a cold beer!
Mackerel is a delicious fish… but the flavour is strong. You definitely have to pair it with big robust flavours. I love it grilled on the bbq with a smear of hot north African harissa. It’s also a fantastic smoked fish, and can be flaked into salads or mixed with horseradish and sour cream for a very tasty dip.
Sardines will always remind me of Portugal… freshly cooked over charcoal, very simply with loads of salt. You could also pair the bbq fresh sardines with a zesty Argentinian chimichurri sauce. If you’re using the tinned variety, try crumbing them and pan frying, then finishing with lots of capers and lemon juice. The great thing is that you can keep tinned sardines in your pantry and pull them out whenever you’re hungry!
Algae Oil is a well known plant based source of omega-3, specifically DHA and EPA which are not present in high enough quantities in other plants. So if you’re vegan or vegetarian, this is a fantastic supplement to your diet.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as a substitute for seeking appropriate medical advice. It is recommended you seek assistance from a health care professional when interpreting these materials and applying them to your individual circumstances. If you have any concerns about your health, consult your General Practitioner.