Imagine if you could take a pill that prevented you from ever feeling fat, dumb or depressed. Oh, and imagine that same pill happened to protect against heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis, too. Not too shabby, right?
Well, omega-3 fatty acids can do all of that, and this life-saving fat comes as a natural ingredient in many of our healthiest (and most delicious) foods, especially salmon, which has more than 1,500 mg in a 3 ounce portion. But as for popping omega-3 pills? “Supplements just don’t cut it,” says Elizabeth Chew, a NIH official who conducted a recent study on omega-3 pills and found zero benefits, at least when it comes to the cognitive abilities of older folks.
So if you’re shelling money for fish oil tablets, consider this good news: You can stop swallowing those horse-pill sized gel caps and go back to eating real food—including burgers, cheese, and even pizza. The researchers at Eat This, Not That! magazine have identified some of the most unlikely, and most delicious, ways to get your 1,100 mg of daily omega-3s recommended by the National Institutes of Health (men should get 1,600 mg daily)—we call it The Ultimate Omega-3 Countdown! You won’t believe what’s #1.
And don’t be fooled into thinking that just any fish will be good for your health: Click here to find out How Tilapia is Worse Than Bacon!
Omega-3 Superfood #15
Omega-3 Payoff: 160 mg per 6-ounce steak
Because they wander around in fields eating things like flax and purslane (about which you’ll read, below), grass-fed cows yield meat that contains about 4 times more omega-3s than grain-fed animals.
Omega-3 Superfood #14
Omega-3 Payoff: 230 mg per tablespoon
One tiny teaspoon of ground mustard provides 100 milligrams of omega-3s, plus serious fat-burning potential. Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that a teaspoon of the hot stuff was enough to boost the metabolism by up to 25% for several hours after eating. Researchers attribute the weight loss benefits to allyl isothiocyanates, compounds that give the mustard its characteristic flavor. You can use ground mustard seed as you would black pepper—put a dash on your salmon for a double dose of omega-3 goodness!
Omega-3 Superfood #13
Omega-3 Payoff: 225 mg per egg
Eggs turn up on many of our “best lists” because they are chock full of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and a fat-fighting nutrient called choline. Omega-3 enriched eggs are laid by hens that are fed flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish oil, thereby automatically improving your cluck! Speaking of turning off fat genes, blast fat quickly green tea. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4 to 5 cups of green tea each day with 25 minutes of exercise lost 2 pounds more than those who didn’t drink the tea. That’s why we made it part of our brand new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!
Omega-3 Superfood #12
Omega-3 Payoff: 240 mg per ½ cup (uncooked)
Diet experts go ga-ga for brown rice, but it’s wild rice that tugs on our heartstrings as a weight loss wonder food. After all, the native American grain has nearly double the fiber and protein, and fewer calories than its arguably more popular cousin. Whole grains have a proven reputation as a weight-loss staple. In one study, Penn State researchers found dieters on a calorie-restricted diet who ate whole grains like rice lost significantly more belly fat than a group who consumed the equivalent number of calories from refined carbohydrates. Another grain high in omega-3s: kamut, which, along with a fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding—yes, chocolate pudding—is one of our 8 Stupendous Secret Superfoods That Burn Fat!
Omega-3 Superfood #11
Omega-3 Payoff: 300 mg per ½ cup
What the heck is purslane? While not a common food in most of the U.S., this sour, slightly salty green is often used in Greek and Turkish cooking. You can find it at farmers’ markets in spring and summer, but the most likely place you’ll encounter it is growing in the cracks of your driveway. A weed to most, it was a regular part of Gandhi’s diet, and a mere half cup has more than 1,000 IUs of vitamin A. This might be the cheapest stealth health food in the world!
Omega-3 Superfood #10
Omega-3 Payoff: 332 mg per cup (baked)
More squash = less squish. A cup of winter squash provides one-third the recommended daily intake of vitamin C — a nutrient researchers say is directly related to the body’s ability to burn through fat. In fact, one study by researchers from Arizona State University showed deficiencies of vitamin C were strongly correlated with increased body fat and waist measurements.
Omega-3 Superfood #9
Omega-3 Payoff: 352 mg per half-cup (cooked)
At only 40 calories per cooked cup, spinach is also rich in vitamin E and two compounds called “betaine” and “choline” that work together to turn off fat storage genes. Recent research suggests compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may also serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. Participants in the three-month study who drank a breakfast smoothie containing spinach thylakoids had fewer cravings and lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group.
Omega-3 Superfood #8
Omega-3 Payoff: 448 mg per 2-ounce serving
Dairy has made a dietary comeback, with new research suggesting the high-fat products like cheese may help reduce the risk of obesity. Cheese-eaters lost more belly fat than a control group who took a calcium supplement, one study found. The group that nibbled cheese also exhibited increased levels of butyrate, a fatty acid found in the gut proven to improve fat metabolism. So enjoy a piece guilt-free and then maximize your fat burn with these sweet and salty 50 Best-Ever Snacks for Weight Loss!
Omega-3 Superfood #7
Omega-3 Payoff: 480 mg per cup (raw)
Lentils are an inexpensive dietary pulse, touted by weight loss experts for their ability to boost fat metabolism and regulate appetites. Researchers say the slimming benefits can be attributed to resistant starch, a form of slow-digesting fiber that triggers the release of acetate, a molecule in the gut that signals the brain when it’s time to stop eating. In fact, people who ate a daily serving of lentils (about ¾ cup) felt an average 31 percent fuller compared to a control diet, a systematic review of clinical trials on legumes found.
Omega-3 Superfood #6
Omega-3 Payoff: 597 mg per 1 oz boneless
The debate over pizza toppings is settled. While salmon, tuna, halibut and other popular fish grab all the omega-3 glory, the humble anchovy is often forgotten about. But just a couple of slices of anchovy pizza get you more than halfway to your daily quota. The superfish is also rich in calcium and potassium (both essential weight-loss minerals) as well as vitamin A. If you’re adventurous, eat them with the bones still in: a 2015 study in Food Chemistry Journal found that the traditional way of eating anchovies yields 8 times as much calcium and twice as much iron as the cleaned-up, boneless option.
Omega-3 Superfood #5
Omega-3 Payoff: 814 mg per 3-ounce serving
It has the reputation of being bland and slimy, but like the high school nerd-turned-successful hottie, tofu is worth a second look. A solid curd made from mashed soybeans, it’s a terrific source of plant-based protein with proven weight-loss potential. One study published in the journal Nature showed dieters who followed a 12-week meal plan that included a soy-based protein replacement lost twice as much weight and saw greater reductions in cholesterol and belly fat than a control group whose equicaloric weight loss diet included protein from lean meats. And the omega-3 count is off the chart.
Omega-3 Superfood #4
Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per ¼ cup
Walnuts pack the most omega-3 punch of any nut or seed, and they’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. This combination, according to a recent study, is highly protective against heart disease. Walnuts help reduce blood pressure and decrease inflammation in the blood vessels during times of stress. Toss some into salads or eat a handful as an afternoon snack.
Omega-3 Superfood #3
Omega-3 Payoff: 1 cup has 1,190 mg
Not only are beans a great source of belly-fat-fighting fiber, a single cup gives you nearly an entire day’s worth of omega-3s. Navy beans are packed with satiating protein, and brimming with vitamins and minerals. Studies show that navy beans in particular can help battle diabetes and obesity.
Omega-3 Superfood #2
Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per tbsp
Yes, those same chia seeds of Chia Pet fame. These nutty-tasting seeds can be added to salads, smoothies, stir fry and more to give your meals an omega-3 boost, and just a tiny shake each morning on your cereal ensures you’re hitting your daily quota.
And the #1 Omega-3 Superfood is….
Omega-3 Payoff: 7,300 mg per tbsp
While whole flaxseeds are high in omega-3s, their hard exteriors often resist digestion, meaning you don’t necessarily get the nutritional bang for your buck. Go for the ground version (also known as flax meal), or get nearly a week’s worth of the good stuff by drizzling a little of the oil onto your salad. Studies have found flax to be helpful for cardiovascular disease symptoms like hypertension, according to a recent study in the journal Hypertension. That’s why flaxseed oil fits in among our 8 Best Oils for Weight Loss.
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