Good Fat, Bad Fat: The Facts About Omega-3

Think all dietary fat is the same? Guess again

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

If you ask folks what food group they should avoid, most will probably answer "fats." While it's true that, in large amounts, some types of fat are bad for your health (not to mention your waistline), there are some we simply can't live without.

Among them are the omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods including walnuts, some fruits and vegetables, and coldwater fish such as herring, mackerel, sturgeon, and anchovies.

"It not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats," says Laurie Tansman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

The jury is in: Omega-3 fatty acids have amazing health properties, affecting everything from your joints to your heart. And all you need to do is to enjoy a few servings a week of omega-3-rich fish, nuts, seeds, and oils.

Foods rich in omega-3s are also excellent sources of lean protein -- which helps keep you feeling satisfied, making you less likely to overeat. So go ahead, treat yourself to your favorite seafood dish (or try one of the flaxseed recipes in this article).

The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficient disorder (ADD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.