Omega 3s- from Pregnancy to Pensions

By now you will have all likely heard about some the virtues of omega-3 fatty acids. Stories of their wonder abound in the health news pages, clinical studies, diet books and the like, all with good cause. But do you know the full story? Omega-3 fatty acids are incredible health-promoting compounds that are vital from preconception all the way to cashing in our pensions.

Omega-3s are building blocks of the brain and nervous system and adequate amounts are imperative during gestation and the early years of life.  One study showed that four year olds whose mothers supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy scored higher on Mental Processing Tests than the children of the mothers in the control group.

Omega-3s also promote good mental health in both children and adults alike. A great number of studies continue to show that children who suffer from behavioural problems have low levels of essential fatty acids in their blood. What is not yet clear is whether this is due to insufficient dietary intake or due to a problem in metabolizing the fatty acids. Encouragingly, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce both the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.

Moving along the lifespan, omega-3s are powerful tools in preventing cardiovascular disease. They have been found to lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, as well as reducing systemic inflammation which is a key aggravator of not only cardiovascular disease, but also cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

It doesn’t stop there. Studies have also shown that those with a healthy dietary intake of omega-3s are less likely to have age-related macular degeneration.  They have also been shown to reduce bone loss in women over the age of 65, a key concern in the prevention or mitigation of osteoporosis.

I could go on, but I think it is clear – omega-3 fatty acids serve multiple roles in promoting health and preventing life-threatening illness.  So where can I get some of these omega-3s? There are two vital omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA), that the body requires. These can be found in oily fleshed, cold water fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and sablefish. 

Plant based sources, such as flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia seeds and walnuts contain a precursor omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid called ALA) that the body must then convert to the more powerful EPA and DHA. They aren’t as rich of a source as the fish; however, they are easy to incorporate into your daily diet and are a great option for vegetarians.  Omega-3 eggs are also now available which can help you increase your daily intake of these fantastic fatty acids.

The recipe of the week is packed full of omega-3s, easy to prepare and one the whole family will like. My mum used to make these for us growing up and I have continued the tradition as both my husband and I love the flavours, but the kids also give it two thumbs up.

Nana’s Salmon Cakes

Serves 4

1 large baking potato (or 2 medium)

2 tins of wild sockeye salmon (drained, flaked and skin removed)

Zest and juice of whole lemon

3 Tbsp chopped parsley

salt and pepper

drizzle (1-2 tsp or so) Olive oil

Optional: Caper mayonnaise

2 Tbsp light mayonnaise

2 Tbsp natural yogurt

1 Tbsp drained capers, finely chopped

½ tsp of lemon zest

Mix all ingredients together.


Peel potatoes, chop into large segments and boil until soft, about 10 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and set aside to cool slightly. Drain salmon tins of brine and put salmon in large bowl.  I remove the skin and crumble the bones with my fingers. Combine the mashed potatoes and flaked salmon in a bowl.  Zest a whole lemon into the mix and squeeze in juice from lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Form hockey puck sized patties.  If time, chill the patties for an hour or so before cooking. Heat olive oil in non-stick frying pan and sauté salmon cakes on each side until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes a side.

I serve the cakes on top of a lightly dressed green salad and add a dollop of caper mayonnaise and wedge of lemon. If your kids aren’t fans of salad, serve with a side of steamed broccoli or on top of home-made mushy peas.

TIP: double the recipe and freeze formed patties for a quick, yummy dinner for those busy nights.  Partially defrost before sautéing and then finish off in hot oven for 5-10 minutes to ensure heated through.

Eat Well. Be Well.


Bahadori B, Uitz E, Thonhofer R, et al. omega-3 Fatty acids infusions as adjuvant therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010; 34(2):151-5.

Balk EM, Lichtenstein AH, Chung M et al. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on serum markers of cardiovascular disease risk: A systematic review. Atherosclerosis. 2006 Nov;189(1):19-30.

Chan EJ, Cho L. What can we expect from omega-3 fatty acids? Cleve Clin J Med. 2009 Apr;76(4):245-51. Review.

Frangou S, Lewis M, McCrone P et al. Efficacy of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid in bipolar depression: randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study. Br J Psychiatry. 2006;188:46-50

Farina EK, Kiel DP, Roubenoff R, Schaefer EJ, Cupples LA, Tucker KL. Protective effects of fish intake and interactive effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intakes on hip bone mineral density in older adults: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):1142-51. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Frölich J, Döpfner M., The treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders with polyunsaturated fatty acids – an effective treatment alternative?. Z Kinder Jugendpsychiatr Psychother. 2008 Mar;36(2):109-16.

Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA., Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e39-44.

Lespérance F, Frasure-Smith N, St-André E, Turecki G, Lespérance P, Wisniewski SR. The efficacy of omega-3 supplementation for major depression: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Aug;72(8):1054-62. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

Martins JG. EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Oct;28(5):525-42.

Seddon JM, Rosner B, Sperduto RD, Yannuzzi L, Haller JA, Blair NP, Willett W. Dietary fat and risk for advanced age-related macular degeneration. Arch Opthalmol. 2001;119(8):1191-1199.

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The Rule of Compensation

The Rule of Compensation is a KEY factor to keeping weight off. It is also very important during any weight loss process but it is absolutely essential once your goal has been reached and you strive to maintain your ideal weight.

The Rule of Compensation is:

If you over-eat or under-exercise, you must compensate for your indulgence at the very next eating or exercising opportunity.

Life is long and filled with wonderful eating and social opportunities. We will drink too much wine; we will eat too much chocolate; we will over indulge on occasion.  But instead of surrendering all discipline for the day thinking, “Forget it! I blew it! I’m going to devour the rest of this cake”. You stop. You think about how much you over-ate and HOW you will compensate for it. Plan it out. 

For example, a Saturday night out with friends, you had: 3 glasses of red wine, big creamy pasta and a chocolate dessert. You ate approximately 600 over your daily limit. Plan your compensation for the very next day:

  • Add 30 minutes to your morning work out (250 calories burned)
  • Skip the latte, have a black coffee (90 calories saved)
  • Cut out 2 carbohydrate servings for the day (160 calories saved)
  • Do a 30 minute power walk at night after dinner (180 calories burned)
  • Total: 600 calories – you compensated for your indulgence.

You don’t have to calculate every calorie as above.  This is just a guide as to what compensatory behaviours could look like.

The MOST important aspect of the Rule of Compensation is that it is done as quickly as possible after the dietary indulgence. If you enjoy an extravagant breakfast complete with bacon, croissants and fried eggs, then you should start thinking about how you will compensate for the rest of the day (and perhaps the next day as well if you really went overboard).  A green salad with a bowl of vegetable soup  for lunch;  sparkling water instead of wine with dinner; and an extra 30 minutes added on to your workout THAT day or the next, will help compensate for your excess and keep your body in check.

If you planned to go for a run or hit an exercise class, but you just didn’t make it out. How will you compensate for it? Consider adding an extra 15 minutes to your next 3 workouts and cutting out dessert that night. Don’t beat yourself up, just compensate!

 Some tips on food substitutions to save calories:

Instead of:  Select: Calories Saved
12oz  nonfat latte  (126 cals) 12 oz nonfat Americo Misto (66 cals) 60 calories
1 oz cheddar cheese (113 cals) 1 oz skim milk mozzarella (72 cals) 41 calories
8 fl oz lemonade (100 cals) 200ml sparking water & lemon (0) 100 calories
1 banana (110 cals) 2 plums (30 calories each) 50 calories
French fries (small) (225 cals) Small baked potato (130 cals) 95 calories
4oz hamburger patty (240 cals) 4oz bison patty (190 cals) 50 calories
Chocolate mousse (300 cals) ¾ cup mixed berries (52 cals) 248 calories
1 cup Boston Clam Chowder (180 cals) 1 cup Chunky Vegetable Soup (recipe below)  (65 cals) 115 calories

A great recipe for everyone’s file is a clean, low-calorie, high-flavour vegetable soup.  Use it as a tasty “compensation meal” for over-indulgences, or add some white beans or a few ounces of skinless chicken breast for a heartier dish.


Chunky Vegetable Soup

Serves: 4


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced fennel
  • ½  cup sliced carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cup diced green cabbage
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs of your choice (basil, dill, oregano, thyme)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


  • In a large saucepan, add 2 tsp olive oil and sauté carrot, onion, fennel and garlic over low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add broth, cabbage, beans, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  • Immediately lower heat and simmer, covered about 15 minutes or until beans are tender.
  • Sprinkle fresh herbs on top.
  • Serve hot.

Nutrition:   65 calories per cup.



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