In your vitamin advisor questionnaire you asked for the number of servings of fresh fish we eat. I like canned salmon and walnuts. Does that meet the requirements? If so, in what amounts? And would any other food, like nuts, be as good? -- Anonymous

The purpose of this question is to determine your intake of the essential fatty acids called Omega-3s. Omega-3s may help reduce the risk and symptoms of many disorders such as heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration (age-related blindness), arthritis, and all inflammatory disorders. These fatty acids are found primarily in oily fish that live in cold water, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, AND, to a lesser extent, albacore tuna. Wild Atlantic salmon (which may have more omega-3s than farmed salmon) is my first choice because it's both tasty and relatively free of the environmental toxins that contaminate many species of fish. If fresh salmon is not feasible for you, then canned salmon is an acceptable choice.

My longstanding recommendation is to consume 2-to-3 servings of fish per week. A 3-ounce serving of Atlantic salmon or herring contains about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while 3 -ounces of sardines has about 1.3 grams.

Fish is not the only source of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, flax, and hemp provide alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts to the omega-3 fatty acids it needs.

You can substitute one ounce of walnuts for a serving of fish, or add a tablespoon or two of flax or hemp oil to your diet. The only problem with plant sources of these nutrients is that some people may not be able to convert alpha-linolenic acid to the longer-chain forms that occur in fish (which are the ones the body needs).

I am not opposed to taking fish oil supplements if you are not getting an adequate amount in your diet, particularly if you have any of the following health conditions: high cholesterol, diabetes, symptoms of PMS, coronary artery disease, breast cancer, memory loss, depression, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Andrew Weil

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