All The Things You Didn’t Know Omega-3s Could Do For Your Health

Take a walk down the supplement aisle and you’re bound to see shelves packed with fish oil supplements. That’s because omega-3s, a type of fatty acid found in fish oil, have become a go-to for heart health support. And while you probably already knew omegas were good for your ticker, they have quite a few other benefits, too.

The Omega-3 Basics

Omega-3s are a type of molecule called a polyunsaturated fatty acid. The body can only produce so much on its own—so you need to get these polyunsaturated fatty acids through your diet, too. “There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids, and all are important for good health,” says Kim Melton, R.D., owner of Nutrition Pro Consulting.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are the two most useful kinds of omega-3s. They’re found in salmon, tuna, shrimp, herring, seaweed, and some grass-fed meats, says Melton. The third omega-3, ALA (alpha linolenic acid), is found in plant sources like flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp, kale, and spinach. Since the body can’t produce this one at all, it has to come from food. Your body has to convert ALA into DHA and EPA through a multi-step process before it can use it, says Melton, hence why it gets the bronze medal.

Once in your body, omega-3s play a role in cell membranes and cell receptors, and help produce hormone-like substances that regulate artery function and inflammation, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The role of omega-3s regarding immune system and inflammatory response may be perhaps most noteworthy, says Myers Hurt, M.D., general physician at Diamond Physicians in Dallas, Texas. And that’s because they suppress inflammatory chemicals within the body.

The Health Benefits of Omega-3s

Omegas offer up plenty of health benefits, from boosting your immune system to supporting your heart health.

Omegas and your heart: Dietary omega-3s can help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as help support cholesterol and blood pressure, says Suzanne Steinbaum, M.D., director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Omega-3s and your immune system: Because they may bolster the body’s productions of immune cells called cytokines, omega-3s may promote immune health. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, for example, found that participants with joint issues who took fish oil for eight weeks reported less joint discomfort and stiffness than those who took a placebo.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Your Joints Are Aching—And How To Deal

Omega-3s and your gut: Some researchers suggest that essential fatty acid deficiency may affect gut health because of EFAs’ interactions with immune cells and role in cell membrane structure. (The concept is that EFAs support the gut’s ability to act as a barrier between substances you consume and your bloodstream.) A review of studies published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases concluded that dietary omega-3s may even have some beneficial effects on ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes ulcers in the digestive tract.

Omega-3s and your skin: These essential fatty acids may also support healthy skin, says Steinbaum. In fact, they may calm and soothe skin due to their role in the immune system, according to Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. However, more research is still needed in this area.

Omega-3s and your brain: Here’s a fun fact we bet you didn’t know: Omega-3s are highly-concentrated in your brain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Because of this, they play an important role in cognitive and behavioral brain function. One review published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity suggests that omega-3s may support mood stability and feelings of wellness. While the study suggests further research, they propose that inadequate omega-3 intake in the Western diet may negatively impact brain function and overall health.

Related: New Study Suggests A Healthy Diet May Help Treat Depression

Considering A Supplement?

Many people don’t get enough from their diet alone—unless they regularly eat a lot of fish or plant sources like flaxseed. Steinbaum recommends talking to your doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen. A blood test can determine if you’re actually deficient in omega-3s.

The typical dosage for an omega-3 fish oil supplement is 1,000 milligrams, with at least 500 milligrams coming from EPA and DHA—though Steinbaum notes that a doc may recommend higher dosages for some individuals.

And if you’re less than thrilled at the thought of fishy burps, Hurt recommends stashing your soft gels in the fridge to help them go down easier.

Related: Find the omega-packed supplement that’s right for you.

12 Ways To Make A Delicious Breakfast With Protein Powder

When you need a quick, protein-packed breakfast that can travel with you as you run out the door, your trusty protein shake always comes through. But the blender isn’t your only option for putting that protein powder to use in the A.M. From pancakes, to overnight oats, to donuts (yes, donuts!), these breakfast recipes will amaze your taste buds and forever change how you do breakfast.

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photo: Nutrition Starring You

Protein-Packed Cereal Bowl
A bowl of cereal is the classic breakfast—but it’s pretty meh when it comes to protein contents. Unless, of course, you hack this innovative idea from Nutrition Starring You. Whisk your favorite protein powder into your milk and watch that bowl of Cheerios transform into a more gains-friendly meal. (Use chocolate protein if you were a fan of chocolate-y cereal milk as a kid!)

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photo: Andrea’s Protein Cakery

Blackberry Ricotta Protein Pancakes
Feeling fancy? These pancakes from Andrea’s Protein Cakery sound like something straight from a fancy brunch menu—except they just so happen to pack 32 grams of protein per serving (courtesy of egg whites, ricotta, and vanilla protein powder). We know what we’re making for breakfast this weekend.

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photo: Chocolate Covered Katie

Chocolate Protein Mug Cake
Yes, you can totally have cake for breakfast. Especially when it’s made with spelt flour, coconut oil, and stevia. Plus, it’s got 10 grams of protein! With the help of a microwave, Chocolate Covered Katie’s mug cake takes about five minutes to throw together and cook.

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photo: Jennifer Meyering

Banana Bread Protein Waffles
Banana bread isn’t the only thing you can make with that overripe banana. Whip out the waffle maker and grab your vanilla protein to make these easy protein waffles from Jennifer Meyering. A little vanilla extract and cinnamon will make them a perfectly sweet treat.

Related: Find the perfect protein powder for you. 

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photo: Dashing Dish

Strawberry Shortcake Protein Overnight Oats
In case you haven’t heard, overnight oats are the trendiest breakfast in town. Made with vanilla or strawberry protein powder and Greek yogurt, Dashing Dish’s dessert-inspired oats make a great grab-and-go breakfast. (Swap the yogurt for applesauce or mashed banana if you don’t do dairy.)

Related: 8 Overnight Oats Recipes That Make Breakfast Taste Like Dessert

Low Carb Coffee Protein Muffins grain free, gluten free, paleo, low fat, low carb, refined sugar free
photo: Southern In Law

Coffee Cake Protein Muffins
Behold, java lovers! Start the morning off with a kick of protein and coffee with these protein muffins. Plus, Southern In Law’s recipe is flourless and refined sugar-free—who doesn’t love that?

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photo: Little Bits Of

Protein Crepes
Looking for yet another morning meal that proves protein powder can be super-sophisticated? Little Bits Of’s two-ingredient protein crepes are the perfect vessel for nut butter and fruit galore—and they’re totally Instagrammable.

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photo: The Big Man’s World

No-Bake Carrot Cake Breakfast Bars
Complete with protein frosting, this no-bake breakfast packs major diner-good flavor without refined sweeteners, grains, or dairy. The recipe, from The Big Man’s World, also makes a great dessert or sweet-cravings crusher.

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photo: Foodie Fiasco

High-Protein Double Chocolate Muffins
Get your fudge fix with Foodie Fiasco’s decadent muffins. At 86 calories (and 11 grams of protein) a pop, they’re made with yummy ingredients like chocolate protein powder, coconut flour, dark chocolate, and sweetened with erythritol. Feel free to get a little heavy-handed when measuring out that dark chocolate…

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photo: Malzis Fit

Protein Samoa Donuts
We’ve discovered the secret to surviving Girl Scout Cookie season with your health and fitness goals in tact: Samoa protein donuts from Malzis Fit. Sugar-free caramel sauce, shredded coconut, and dark chocolate make to-die-for cookie-like toppings.

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photo: Hungry Hobby

Pumpkin Protein French Toast
Probably one of the last breakfasts we associate with healthy eating, French toast can be calorie-conscious and muscle-friendly with just a few tweaks. Hungry Hobby’s pumpkin French toast is full of flavor by soaking whole-grain bread in a mixture of egg whites, pumpkin puree, vanilla protein powder, and cinnamon for a healthier version of the indulgent fan favorite.

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photo: Brooklyn Farm Girl

Double Chocolate Protein Oatmeal
A warm bowl of oatmeal might just be one of the most relaxing ways to start a morning. Add chocolate into the mix and you’re set for the day. Brooklyn Farm Girl’s chocolate-y protein oats come together quickly on the stove top—just stir in your favorite chocolate protein powder.

Related: Stock up on healthy supplies for cooking and baking.

12 Energy Bite Recipes You’ll Want For Breakfast, Snack-time, And Dessert

When you need a quick snack to keep you full until dinner—or something sweet to satiate your inner cookie monster—we’ve got your answer: energy bites.

Mix and roll together a few simple ingredients—like nut butter, rolled oats, protein powder, chia seeds, and honey—and you’ve got a stash of easy grab-and-go treats. We rounded up a dozen of the yummiest, most creative recipes out there—so get mixing!

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photo: Gimme Some Oven

No-Bake Chocolate PB Energy Bites
If you’re new to the world of energy bites, this classic recipe from Gimme Some Oven is the place to start. Coconut, flaxseed, peanut butter, and chia seeds come together for a dose of healthy fats—and chocolate chips make each bite as good as a cookie.

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photo: The Recipe Rebel

Lemon Blueberry Energy Bites
Fresh lemon juice makes these fruity-sweet bites the perfect alternative to that coffee shop muffin that’s been staring at you all week. The Recipe Rebel’s energy bites are made with only five ingredients and are sweetened with honey.

vanilla espresso almond butter energy bites
photo: With Salt And Wit

Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter Energy Bites
Get in your coffee along with your morning (or afternoon) mug with these espresso-inspired energy bites from With Salt And Wit. Instant coffee packs the flavor you crave, while vanilla protein powder bumps up the protein and helps sweeten the treat.

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photo: Baking-Ginger

Nutella Chia Energy Bites
We know: We had you at ‘nutella.’ Using just chocolate hazelnut spread and three other ingredients, these sweet bites make for the perfect dessert. Baking-Ginger knows how to make the people happy.

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photo: My Kids Lick The Bowl

Carrot Oat Energy Bites
Trying to squeeze more vegetables into your day isn’t always easy—especially if you have a sweet tooth. My Kids Lick The Bowl’s recipe makes it happen, though, by combining finely chopped carrots with sweet dates, cinnamon, ginger, and a few other flavorful ingredients. It’s like healthier carrot cake—in a ball.

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photo: Living Well Mom

Matcha Green Tea Energy Bites
Matcha is so trendy (and so great for you) that we’re putting it in everything and anything. Shredded coconut and maple syrup sweeten up these bites from Living Well Mom. What a delightful green color they are.

Related: Is Matcha Really A Miracle Worker?

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photo: Jessica In The Kitchen

No-Bake Brownie Energy Bites
There’s nothing quite like biting into a chewy, walnut-y brownie, but if you’re eating clean or watching your weight, these brownie bites will satisfy your inner fudge monster. Plus, you don’t have to wait impatiently for Jessica In The Kitchen’s bites to bake.

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photo: Don’t Waste The Crumbs

Sweet And Salty Energy Bites
Lovers of all things salt, these are the energy bites for you. Mix crumbled pretzel pieces into your standard energy bite concoction of honey, PB, coconut, flaxseed, oats, and coconut oil, and you’ve got a treat like no other. Don’t Waste The Crumbs recommends throwing some mini chocolate chips into the mix if you’re feeling indulgent.

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photo: Recipe Runner

Cinnamon Apple Energy Bites
Put a slice of apple pie in front of us and chances are we won’t be able to take just one bite. So Recipe Runner’s energy bites are pretty much our hero—especially considering they’re free of refined flours and sugar, unlike most slices of the classic T-giving dessert.

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photo: Desserts With Benefits

Healthy Cake Batter Energy Bites
Start with Desserts With Benefits’ homemade cake batter nut butter, and mix in a handful of quick ingredients for these birthday-worthy treats. They’re guilt-free, sweetened with stevia, and super-colorful if you roll them in rainbow sprinkles before serving or storing.

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photo: Natalie’s Food And Health

Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites
Yet another trendy, health-friendly ingredient we can’t get enough of: turmeric. This feel-good, bite-sized snack from Natalie’s Food And Health gets its flavor from ground turmeric, lemon zest, vanilla extract, coconut, and (of course) dates.

Related: 12 Easy Ways To Incorporate Turmeric Into Your Diet

dark chocolate hemp energy bites
photo: Minimalist Baker

Dark Chocolate Hemp Energy Bites
Hemp hearts are the new chia seeds, and Minimalist Baker’s recipe is all about these chewy sources of protein and healthy fats. Each bite has four grams of protein, so consider us impressed.

Related: Shop a variety of ingredients for healthier baking.

How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

We love a good smoothie, but not all blends are created equal. In order to make these liquid snacks work for your personal health and fitness goals, you may need to switch up the ingredients you throw into the blender.

First things first, you want your smoothie to provide a balance of four things: nutrient-dense carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fiber, says Wesley Delbridge R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. From there, a few tweaks will help you whip up your perfect drink.

Whether you’re looking to bulk up or shed a few pounds, these nutritionist-backed guidelines can help you make you a smart smoothie next time you reach for the blender.

Goal: Weight Management

If you’re trying to shed pounds, calorie control is the name of the game. While the body needs carbohydrates for energy, cutting down on the carbs and fat in your shake can keep its calories in check to support weight loss. Making sure your shake packs plenty of protein, though, helps you maintain and build muscle while cutting calories, says Jim White, R.D., founder of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios.

Unsweetened almond milk makes a great base for a weight loss-friendly shake because it’s low in calories, White says. (One cup has 39 calories.) He recommends blending it up with whey protein powder—one scoop for women and two scoops for men. This blended snack comes in somewhere around 150 to 200 calories, keeps carbohydrates low, and packs on the protein.

Related: This Is The Best Cardio Workout For Weight Loss

Goal: Meal Replacement

On super-busy days, sitting down for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) just isn’t in the cards. Smoothie to the rescue!

If your blend is replacing a meal, White recommends women shoot for a 400-calorie drink while men go for a 500-calorie drink. When building your meal replacement smoothie, be sure to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and fat before blending for a nutritionally-balanced result.

Start with a base of six to eight ounces of coconut milk and add the following: dry oats (a quarter-cup for women and half-cup for guys), one cup Greek yogurt, three quarters-cup berries, and a tablespoon of chia seeds. The berries knock out a serving of fruit, the oats provide fiber-filled carbs, the yogurt provides protein, and chia seeds add essential fatty acids. Now that’s a balanced, busy day-friendly meal.

Goal: Muscle-Building Or ‘Bulking’

In the fitness world, protein and muscle gains go together like peanut butter and jelly. While the average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, athletes who are really working their muscles hard may need up to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram, says Delbridge. (That’s roughly 0.36 grams per pound for the average person and 0.64 grams per pound for someone stressing their muscles big time.)

White recommends muscle-making smoothies that have a ratio of one part protein to two parts carbohydrate. If bulking up is your goal, you need carbs after a lifting session to restore the glycogen in your muscles, in addition to needing protein to help them rebuild and grow. Mix one cup of skim milk (nine grams of protein and 13 grams of carbs) with a scoop of whey protein (about 20 grams of protein). Then add a medium banana for two full servings of fruit and 27 grams of carbohydrates. That gives you a prime post-workout shake consisting of 316 calories, 41 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of protein.

Related: Find the flavor of protein powder you’ll look forward to every time.

Goal: Endurance Exercise and Performance

If you’re training for a distance-racing event, or are just trying to run or cycle farther, smoothies can be a great way to fuel your body for the long haul. For this, you’ll need higher amounts of nutrient-dense carbs for long-lasting energy, says Delbridge. Oh yeah, there are bananas and oats in your future.

White recommends starting with a base of unsweetened almond milk and adding the following: a half-cup to one cup dried oats, half a frozen banana, a handful of spinach, and a full orange. This shake uses whole food sources to jack up the carbs (upward of 100 grams) and provides some protein from the oats and spinach to promote recovery post-workout, he says.

Save this handy infographic for the perfect smoothie instructions, whenever you’re craving a blend: 

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5 Health Gurus Share Their Morning Routines

You try to wake up early, eat a healthy breakfast, get some exercise in, and make sure your morning routine is all around killin’ it. But sometimes it doesn’t always work out so well, does it?

It doesn’t have to be so hard to have a great morning—promise. Putting time aside for a consistent daily routine—even just one small thing each morning to help you feel healthy and happy—can make a huge difference.

For inspiration, five health gurus offer up their own morning routines. From protein-packed breakfasts to setting intentions, you’re sure to find something here that may change the way you prep for the day ahead.

Nikki Ortiz, dancer, yogi, and 2015 National Yoga Champion

“The main thing I do every morning to ensure a successful day is meditate. I make sure I have some time with myself to get centered and grounded before I can start my day. I got in the habit of doing it every morning about two years ago and it’s changed the game. I feel very incomplete if I don’t meditate in the morning. I do it for about 10 minutes, and after that I can go about my day.”

Lauren Gleisberg, fitness pro

“Regardless of what time you wake each morning, establish and stick to a morning routine to set yourself up for success each day. My 10-minute morning routine includes waking and sitting in silence for a minute to set an intention for the day, drinking a glass of water to get my body going, writing out my daily to-do list that aligns with my weekly and monthly goals, making a protein smoothie, and then diving into my day. A simple yet productive routine like this helps set the tone for the entire day.”

Related: Shop protein for a healthy, satiating breakfast.

Cristina Curp, food blogger and recipe developer

“Although my life has had a total health overhaul in the last two years, one thing I haven’t given up is my morning coffee. Instead, I have made it into a nutrient dense vessel for all good things. My one cup of Joe packs plenty of satiating good fats, protein, turmeric, and health-promoting wild mushroom blend. A little cinnamon for flavor and a whirl in my blender. This stuff is practically rocket fuel! Here’s my recipe:

12-oz of fair trade coffee
1 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 tbsp mct oil
1 tbsp grass-fed beef gelatin
1 tbsp cocotropic wild mushroom blend
Dash of cinnamon

Blend until frothy. Pour, sip. Kick butt.”

Related: One Nutritionist’s Entire Day Of Eating, In Photos

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, nutritionist

“Two critical parts of my morning routine are my 7:30 a.m. workout and a protein-packed breakfast for refuel. I find that exercising in the morning gets my day started while I have enough energy, as I’m too drained in the late afternoon and too busy with my kids. Also, I make sure to consume a breakfast with at least 20 grams of protein along with fiber-rich carbs and healthy fat to support muscle growth and repair.”

Dr. Rajeev Kurapati, physician and author

“I wake up early (around 4:30 or five in the morning) after making sure I get at least five to six hours of restorative sleep. Then, I drink warm water to help with digestion and to re-hydrate from the night before. I do yoga and meditation for about 20 minutes after I shower.”

Related: Is It Worse To Skip A Workout Or Skimp On Sleep?

perfect morning routine

8 Tasty Ways To Combine Your Morning Coffee With Your Morning Protein Powder

For so many of us, coffee is what gets us out of bed in the morning. That sweet-smelling, energy-giving liquid enables us to conquer the world. But if you want your morning coffee habit to be even more beneficial, we have a suggestion for you—add protein!

Protein is a powerhouse macronutrient. It fills you up, helps build muscles, and assists in cell repair and creation. It’s important to get a good amount of protein at the beginning of the day to kickstart your metabolism and keep your body well-fueled, and protein powder is an easy, tasty solution.

Here are eight ways you can get your java and protein fix in one. Mornings, prepare to be transformed.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Cafe Mocha Protein Shake

Go for some chocolate-y goodness with this mix of cold coffee, almond milk, and plnt’s chocolate protein powder to create a drink that will certainly keep you going until lunch. Check out this recipe from food and fitness blogger Jennifer Meyering.

Vanilla Swappuccino Protein Shake

Love Frappucinos, but trying to steer clear of all that sugar? Make a healthier version at home by mixing up Hungry Girl’s Vanilla Swappuccino Protein Shake. Use BodyTech’s French Vanilla Whey Protein Powder for a whopping 17 grams of protein in one serving.

Energy Bites

You don’t need to drink your protein to get the coffee-flavored taste you want in the morning—make energy bites with coffee-flavored protein powder, instead! Garden of Life’s Organic Plant Protein in Smooth Coffee is a delicious way to add a kick to Ambitious Kitchen’s to-die-for peanut butter energy bites.

Ready-to-Drink Coffee with Protein

Pressed for time? Skip all the mixing and blending and pick up Orgain’s Organic Coldbrew+Protein, a prepared version of iced coffee. 10 grams of protein will fill you up on the go.

Espresso Protein Smoothie

If you’re paleo (or just trying to get more healthy fats into your life), this espresso protein smoothie from Paleo Power Couple will definitely fit the bill. It’s delicious, too, with a big serving of coconut milk and two full shots of espresso (yes, please). With the paleo power of Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein in Coffee flavor, you’ll feel super-energized.

Related: Shop plant protein and get your mornings started.

Coffee Protein Pumpkin Brownies

Brownies for breakfast? Why the heck not? With fiber from pumpkins, caffeine from coffee, and protein from a powder like BodyTech’s Vanilla Whey Protein, these brownies have a lot more nutritional value than the ones you’re used to.

Vanilla Cappuccino Protein Pudding

If you’re vegan (or even if you’re not), you will love this decadent pudding from One Green Planet. Make it with plnt’s Vanilla Pea Protein powder for extra plant-powered benefits.

Iced Mocha Green Monster Smoothie

It doesn’t seem like coffee would be a good combination with greens, but Oh She Glows has created a crazy-delicious spin on a green smoothie, adding coffee for taste and effect. You won’t even taste the spinach! Add plnt protein in chocolate to up the chocolate-y goodness factor.

Related: Shop whey protein from all of the best brands.