By Naini Setalvad
The elusive Omega-3 is abundantly available in walnuts and flax seeds, so vegetarians need not despair, says Naini Setalvad
Small things added daily in our food improves our healthy tremendously. A recent study from the American College of Cardiology has suggested that among Indian heart patients, almost every second has high blood pressure, every fourth has diabetes, and every fifth has plaque deposits in his/her arteries. Omega-3 plays a vital role in improving these health issues. Good sources of Omega-3 are walnuts, and oily fish. Cheaper sources are flax seeds (called alsi in local stores) and chia. But their consumption should be moderate since they add calories.
One of the easiest and simplest ways to obtain Omega-3 is to eat a handful of walnuts daily. They are easy to carry, and can replace your evening snack. A small handful will keep you full for a couple of hours, cut down hunger pangs, prevent binging and is sustainable. Incorporating walnuts into meals and snacks is a simple, tasty and convenient way to ensure adequate protein intake, especially among vegetarians. Even non-vegetarians can include walnuts as a good Omega-3 source in their diet since it is healthy.
One ounce of walnuts provides four grams of protein, as well as two grams of fibre. Fibres help make you feel full, and can control overeating. Eating a handful of walnuts tastes great, and is a heart-healthy addition to your diet.
Good sources of Omega-3 are walnuts, and oily fish. Cheaper sources are flax seeds (called alsi in local stores) and chia.
Incorporating walnuts in your diet reduces the risk of major diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, asthma and arthritis. Walnuts differ from other nuts as they are predominantly rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like oleic acid, and are an excellent source of the all-important Omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Walnuts are one of the few whole foods that contribute many beneficial nutrients to diet. They are a rich source of energy and contain many health-benefitting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
Mahatma Gandhi once observed, “Wherever flax seed becomes a regular food item among people, there will be better health.” Though tiny it is powerful when it comes to health. Flax may be a relatively new health food but its history is very old. According to archeologists, flax was already being cultivated in Babylon around 5000 BC. A 15th century abbess used flax meal in hot compresses to treat both external and internal ailments. Ten years ago almost every Western nutrition book I read, talked about flax seeds or linseeds (it has two names), and its vital role in healthy heart functioning. I went all over town trying to find this miraculous seed but in vain. I had to eventually ask a cousin to send it to me from America. My domestic help, fondly called mausi, inspected it carefully and wondered why I was being so protective about ‘alsi’. I was elated when I found that it was a common item in all grocery stores. Flax is famously rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, preventing inflammation, and protecting heart health. Flax seeds are strong antioxidants, thus detoxifying your body, and cleansing you. The Omega-3 fatty acid works in flax to act as a powerful anti-ageing agent and prevents degenerative diseases. Sprinkle it on your salad to lower cholesterol. I love it as an after dinner mouth freshener mixed with fennel (saunf).
Oily fish – Adding oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines to your diet can boost your health tremendously, from reducing arthritis pain to lowering blood pressure since it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits of Omega-3:
1. Improves blood cholesterol, decreases triglyceride
2. Prevents heart disease, reduces irregular heartbeat
3. Prevents atherosclerosis.
4. Improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthiritis.
5. Reduces depression, can boost memory.
6. Reduces risk of breast cancer and prostrate cancer
7. Protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s
8. Prevents osteoporosis
9. Reduces inflammation
10 Keeps your cells healthy
11. Helps reduce blood pressure
12. Helps manage body’s response to insulin and consequently helps diabetes
13. Helps regulate hunger and consequently obesity.
14. Helps brain development and functioning.
In fact, not getting enough Omega-3 fats is known to change the level and functioning of both serotonin and dopamine (which plays a role in feelings of pleasure), as well as compromising the blood-brain barrier, which normally protects your brain from unwanted matter.
Those who regularly consume Omega-3 rich foods tend to experience less depressive symptoms. So mix a few spoons of flax seeds in your salads, morning porridge or afternoon cup of curd. Munch on 5-6 walnuts in between meals to feel a little better. Bernand Shaw rightly said that if one does not have good quality fat, then one is not capable of achieving great heights in life.
1 cup walnuts shelled
1/2 cup fresh curds beaten
4-5 kashmiri red chillies
1 tbsp raisins
salt to taste
• Pound the walnuts and chillies together.
• Mix curds, salt and raisins well.
• Add pounded nuts and mix well.
• Chill before serving.
• Serve with sticks of carrots, beets, celery, with dry bread sticks or in your plate with your food instead of pickle.
500 ml curd (prepared from skimmed milk)
1 cup spinach leaves (palak) steamed
1/4 tsp roasted cumin seed powder
Salt to taste
2 tsp roasted flax seeds (alsi seeds)
2 tbsps date paste ( khajur chutney)
• Finely chop spinach and coriander. Chop walnuts into small pieces.
• Stir the curd and add palak, coriander, green chilies, salt, jeera powder, flax seeds, date paste and walnut to it. Serve chilled.
About the author :
Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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