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Is omega-3 fat the newest food fad?

July 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it comes to food fads, we've had low fat, no fat and now omega-3 fat. Known as omega-3 fatty acids, these healthy fats are famous for being found in fish, but now food manufacturers are putting them in staples like bread and eggs."My doctor told me if I don't get my cholesterol level down that she's going to put me on medication," said Jennifer Maciejewski.

A routine visit to the doctor has Jennifer exercising more and adding omega-3 fats to her diet. As research shows that for many, this healthy fats found in fish and some plant food helps to prevent heart disease, which runs in her family.

"I know it's something I need to take seriously. I've got two little kids and want to be there for them," said Maciejewski.

Lucky for Jennifer there's no shortage of omega-3 foods at the market. It is found in everything from eggs, milk, pasta and oil.

Fortified foods are pouring onto store shelves, with manufacturers offering 423 new omega-3 fat foods in 2008 and an additional 157 this year so far.

But should you stock up? Joan Salge Blake, who is with the American Dietetic Association, says most of the products contain a fraction of the amount of omega-3 fat's you'd get from a serving of salmon and often cost twice as much as comparable products.

"Four ounces of something like salmon can have 50 times more the omega-3's than some of these fortified products," said Blake.

Currently, Americans average a paltry 85 milligrams of omega-3 daily, but many experts suggest we get 1000 to 2500 milligrams.

Which can easily be met by having a couple 4 ounce servings of salmon a week. But if you're looking for omega-3 fats in your enriched foods you've got to check the labels. For instance, 1 cup of milk will get you 32 milligrams and 1 egg has 75 milligrams, so you would have to eat quite a few of them and often.

"Our recommendation is to get that 2 to 4 servings a week of a fatty fish into your routine," said Dr. Vincent Bufalino, American Heart Association.

"I really don't like the taste. I don't like the texture. I don't like the smell," said Maciejewski.

For those like Jennifer, fish oil pills may be the next best thing. But do give your doctor a heads up.

"There are some potential blood-thinning effects, blood pressure-lowering effects, heart irregularity effects. Those kinds of things will maybe have an impact on some of the other medicines you may be taking," said Dr. Bufalino.

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