Category Archives: Breaking Nutrition News

Fish Oil Supplements – Helpful or Harmful?

The American Heart Association has, for years, recommended fatty fish to help reduce the chance of heart disease.   Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

There are documented benefits linked to omega-3 fatty acids. According to the, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid, which have been shown in clinical trials to reduce inflammation and lower risk for heart disease. Other benefits include decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing risk for blood clots, boosting immunity and improving arthritis symptoms. Even more studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids improve memory for adults and learning ability for children.

fish oil woman mouth

Health seekers have turned to omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements for a couple of reasons.

Some people dislike fish, especially fatty fish, which is the best food source of omega-3s. Anchovies and sardines are two of the richest sources, but a lot of people complain about the “fishy taste” so fish oil capsules are an ideal compromise.

Contamination is yet another concern. Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel may be overfished, farmed (and fed antibiotics), or tainted with mercury. A few years back, actor Jeremy Piven would up in the hospital with mercury toxicity – it appears that his twice-daily meal of raw sushi (tuna, mackerel, salmon) caused his mercury levels to soar.

Fresh fish can be expensive – and supplements may be a way to get the fish benefits more cheaply and easily.

But, as reported in Men’s Fitness,   there are countless brands of fish oil supplements ranging in price from $5 up to $30 dollars per bottle – available over-the-counter, even online. But be forewarned – all supplements are not created equal – some may even be dangerous – they may contain less of the active EPA and DHA omega-3s than advertised…or worse, they may contain unsafe and illegal levels of PCBs.  Safe supplements will list the species of fish used to make the oil (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies are the richest and safest fish in terms of level of mercury), and also list total amounts of EPA and DHA – as well as the source of the fish, and a guarantee that there are no heavy metals, toxins or pesticides. I think it’s important to only buy supplements that have been reviewed by an independent, third-party testing company, such as or


Consumers can skip supplements and if they dislike fish they can choose other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including vegetarian omega-3 supplements (vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, walnut, and flaxseed) and foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds.

The American Heart Association recommends eating one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA cites studies that link consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

All fish are good sources of protein but the best advice is to avoid potential contaminants – such as mercury – by eating a variety of fish – avoid big predatory fish like swordfish, tuna, and shark – and eat smaller fish like sardines, anchovies, and my favorite, shellfish – all are rich in omega-3s and have a low chance of being contaminated.

To learn more about all sources of omega-3 fatty acids: from both fish and vegetarian sources from, click here

To learn more about fish oil supplements from the click here


Make Your Hands Smile With My Meal

Some great innovative information from Angie Hasemann, a genius registered dietitian colleague from the University of Virgina:

“Want to know how to teach children and adults how to balance meals, focus on fruits and veggies, and eat appropriate portions in a simple, easy‐to‐remember way? Try out this simple “Make Your Hands Smile” trick to teach clients of any age in under five minutes. It may just be the most effective tool you’ve ever learned. Place your hands palms up, side‐by‐side. Your meal should be just enough food to cover your hands (accounting for children of different ages). One palm is a lean protein; the other is a whole grain. Fingers are filled with fruits and veggies. Your hands are filled, but what if you’re still hungry? Spread out our fingers to fit more fruits and veggies (our best choices for seconds). Recognize the shape of the smiley face, with the most important part (the mouth) being fruits and vegetables-the best part to eat first! Using numerous photos of actual meals demonstrating this concept to encourage balance, portion control, and to focus on fruits and veggies is the perfect teaching tool for clients, students, and other health professionals. Family tested and RD approved, this simple technique for teaching the very basics of nutrition in a fun and creative way has proven to be effective with children of all ages and is regularly used with overweight and obese children in the University of Virginia’s Children’s Fitness Clinic.

This innovation has already enhanced the practice and performance of practitioners. It turns all of the basics‐‐that we try to teach overweight children, adults wanting to lose weight, and other health professionals with little nutrition education‐‐into something simple, fun, and easy to remember. It’s an effective way of providing pictures for visual learners and utilizes a tool‐‐our hands‐‐that stays with us all day long. It solves the questions of “Why is my big brother getting more food than me?”, “How do I know how much to eat?”, and “How can I plan a healthy meal?”. With the overriding concept of half of the plate being fruits and vegetables, it’s an easy message for kids and parents to understand and health professionals to pass on to their clients. The pictures of smiley face meals are great ideas for meal planning as well.

Feedback from patients, their parents and other family members, students and interns, as well as other health professionals shows they have successfully learned basic nutrition and applied it to their daily life with the use of the innovation. Many RDs and DTRs struggle with translating the science of nutrition into user-friendly formats that motivate people to be interested in nutrition and empower them to make real changes. This technique is simple to understand, easy to apply, and impossible to forget. Kids come back requesting that every meal be in the shape of the smiley face and going for their fruits and veggies first at meals, because that’s what they learned! Physicians have responded that it’s one of the easiest ways to communicate nutrition to their patients and can be done without any visual aids or handouts, so its ease of use makes it more practical for their office setting. Using and teaching techniques likes this helps our clients and other health professionals to continue to look for us for guidance in nutrition.”

Thanks for sharing, Angie!

Angie Hasemann, MS, RDN, CSP
Weight Management Dietitian, Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia Children’s Hospital
Program Director, UVA Health System Dietetic Internship
Address: P.O. Box 800673, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0673
Make Your Hands Smile with My Meal

A New Year – Set Health Goals

Some call the very first Monday to follow New Year’s Day “Blue Monday” and it may be the most depressing day of the year. IMG_1799After the glow and excitement of the December holidays wears off, reality sets in – with the new year, comes new bills, and it’s back to work, and gee…what about those New Year resolutions! You may be thinking, “Do I have any idea how I’m going to get to Rome in May? And those 20 pounds I want to lose by June – oh boy, does that mean I have to give up my grande coffee drink? How can I find the motivation to really accomplish what I want?”
Well, maybe Rome may have to wait, but your weight and your health are in your hands. Nothing succeeds like success, and we’re not just saying it – research tells us this is true! Depending when you start your weight loss program, when you have some noticeable success early on, then you’re more likely to continue. Results from a randomized trial (where one group used one weight loss plan, and another group used a different one), early weight loss (at least 2 pounds weekly during the first 3 weeks) was predictive of sticking to it over time.
Each person loses weight differently, depending on how many calories they need to maintain their current weight and how many calories they consume and burn daily

IMG_3132. Although some will say it’s all about total calories, there’s also science that says that all calories are not equal. Calories from simple, refined carbohydrates like juice, white flour and sugar are quickly absorbed. Whole foods contain fiber, which helps promote stable blood glucose. Lean protein is also satiating, and even if you don’t eat meat, plant proteins from legumes and whole grains are also great sources of fiber. In less than three months, you can lose 10 pounds – or more. Keep up that pace – losing too quickly means you’re likely to regain it: two pounds weekly is just about ideal. If you’re hungry and you’re losing more than 2 pounds weekly, it’s a sign that you need to up your calories to sustain your nutrition and motivation. Remember, it’s one day at a time, one pound at a time toward your healthy weight.

Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs: Good Nutrition, Taste and Satisfaction

See this video of Dr. Jim Painter and me posted on the Safest Choice Website.  Why are eggs a good choice?  Because they’re one of the best inexpensive and easy-to-prepare sources of valuable protein and nutrients.

Fun to Learn Website for Kids

MyPlate Kids’ Place is OPEN! sent this bulletin at 06/03/2013 10:25 AM EDT

The doors to MyPlate Kids’ Place are open! Kids will find games, videos, songs, activity sheets, recipes, and tips to help them eat healthier and move more. Parents and teachers will find new ways to help kids make healthier food and physical activity choices. Teachers and professionals can also add the resources to summer camp and back-to-school efforts.