Ask Amelia Nutrition

Fish Oil & Flax: Are They Worth Taking?

Question: I started doing Crossfit once a week and the trainer suggested I take a fish oil pill and introduce flax seed into my diet.  What do you think of these?  They are both quite high in fat!

Answer: Great question. Both these nutrients get a lot of attention, but if you’re going to integrate them into your diet, you have to do so carefully in order to avoid just eating more fat and calories (which would take a toll on most people’s health, rather than boost health).  Here’s are my thoughts:

  1. Omega-3 Fish Oil. More and more research on fish oil is revealing significant health benefits, primarily for heart health, but also for improved brain function, better blood circulation, reduced inflammation in the body, and even reduced depression.  The best way to get Omega-3 fatty acids is by eating low-mercury fish 2-3 times per week, but it can’t hurt to take a supplement once a day also.  A 1000mg capsule of concentrated fish oil has only 10 calories, so it won’t really impact your diet.  Just make sure to buy a brand that is “USP verified” and that has at least 300mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per dose.  I like the Kirkland Signature brand pictured above.  [Note: it IS possible to take too much Omega-3, which can lead to bleeding a problems clotting, so make sure to take only the recommended amount].  If you want to start incorporating more fish into your diet, here are some ideas.
  2. Flax Seed. In order to get significant health benefits from flax seed, you’d have to eat it pretty much all day long, and the calories would add up quick  Eating even one tablespoon of flax seed oil everyday would add 120 calories and 14g of fat to your diet, which would cause weight gain fairly quickly.  Getting Omega-3’s from fish is much more effective.  So, either skip the flax, or incorporate flax seed into recipes and foods that you’re already eating.  A few examples of how I like to use flax:
  • If you normally eat granola or cereal on yogurt, replace a handful of the cereal with 2 Tbsp flax seeds or ground flax seed meal.  It’ll add a nutty taste and keep you feeling satisfied.
  • When making banana bread, muffins, or bread, add 1/4 cup ground flax seed meal and leave out 2 of the Tbsp of flour and 2 of the Tbsp of oil.
  • Sprinkle a little ground flax seed meal on cottage cheese with halved cherry tomatoes for a satisfying snack.
  • Add 1 Tbsp flax seeds to a smoothie for an interesting texture and nutty flavor.

Hope this helps!

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