Q: Dr. Myers, I want to start supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. How can I be sure I’m taking a quality fish oil supplement?
A:Omega-3 fatty acids support overall health and may reduce the incidence of coronary health issues, according to a scientific statement published by the American Heart Association in the journal Circulation. Fish oil is one of the best sources of these important nutrients, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two long strands of essential omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce certain risk factors for heart disease.
If you’re not getting enough omega-3 by eating fatty fish twice per week, adding a quality fish oil supplement to your diet can be a great option. But quality can vary greatly between brands, so its important to know how to choose a good product. Read the label of any supplement you’re considering to make sure it has been properly purified to remove all toxins and is sourced from sustainably harvested cold-water ocean fish like anchovies, sardines or salmon. Be sure that any supplement you take has been evaluated and approved by U.S. Pharmacopeia and meets the Food and Drug Administrations requirements for dietary supplements. Products subject to the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency and Californias Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Prop 65) abide by even stricter standards that reduce exposure to toxins and chemicals. A high-quality fish oil capsule should also contain at least 60 percent long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA combined and should be manufactured to avoid fishy burps.
The recommended daily intake is 300 to 900 milligrams of EPA plus DHA, but you should talk to your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right amount for your dietary needs.
Q: Dr. Myers, can you tell me if nutrients in vegetables are lost in the cooking process?
A: According to a recent study published in Food and Nutrition Science, raw vegetables contain higher levels of antioxidants than their cooked counterparts. But while many vegetables deliver more nutrients to the body when eaten raw, others are actually enhanced by cooking. What matters is the type of nutrient the vegetable contains and the cooking process used. Cooking methods decrease water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C, which is found in vegetables like broccoli and peppers. Reusing the water used to boil the vegetable (such as in a soup) or steaming, as opposed to frying, can help retain more of the immune-boosting nutrient.
That being said, nutrients in some vegetables, like lycopene-rich tomatoes, are actually enhanced during the cooking process. A study conducted by a researcher at Cornell University found that heat increases lycopene levels and makes it easier for the body to absorb the crucial antioxidant.
Although the answer isn’t clear-cut, remember this: You’ll always get more nutrients from the vegetables you eat than the ones you don’t whether they’re raw, boiled, steamed or baked.
Do you have a question about supplements?Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to us at Healthy Living Made Simple, 1703 Phyllis St., Suite 202, Bentonville, AR 72712.
Dr. Andrew Myers is an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of Health Is Wealth: 10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds of Living to 100 and Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition. Visit healthiswealth.net for more information.