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Ask Elsa - Oily fish dilemmas

Q. I'M TRYING to eat more oily fish for health reasons even though I'm not mad on it. How much should I be aiming to eat and does tinned tuna count?

A. I wouldn't rely on tinned tuna to provide your omega 3 quota, always try to use fresh fish. The levels of omega 3 fats contained in tinned tuna are only a fraction compared to fresh.

The best oily fish to eat are wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings or kippers, which have the highest amount of EPA. A small serving of salmon or mackerel will give you at least 1.5g of omega 3 fats, which is about the bare minimum you need in a week. Tinned and smoked salmon contain approximately two-thirds the amount of omega 3 as fresh salmon.

For optimal health, I would aim for three portions of oily fish per week. However, if that sounds too much for you, you can also get a good dose of omega 3 fats by having two tablespoons of either chia or flax seeds a day, or two teaspoons of their oil.

Chia and flax seeds can easily be added to your every-day foods such as porridge, muesli, yogurt, smoothies, salads and soups.

Q. My stomach gurgles loudly and I burp a lot straight after meals. I often feel as if my food just sits in my stomach after I eat which makes me feel bloated and windy. Any advice?

A. The above mentioned symptoms suggest insufficient digestion. When we eat, we produce digestive enzymes in the mouth and stomach which break down the foods and help us to absorb nutrients.

If we do not have enough hydrochloric acid or enzymes to break foods down, then food matter can sit in the stomach and ferment which then produces gas and causes bloating.

I would suggest that you avoid eating large amounts of food in one sitting, stick to eating smaller meals more often during the day.

If you have limited amounts of digestive juices then large meals will greatly increase bloating. Don't drink large amounts of liquids for 30 minutes either side of a meal either as this will dilute the digestive enzymes and reduce digestion further.

Consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement before meals. These can be bought at health food stores. Alternatively, you could take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a small glass of warm water 15 minutes before a meal to get your digestive juices flowing.

Eat more green, bitter foods such as rocket, radicchio and endive which promote digestion. Consider having them as a salad starter.

Reduce sugar, wheat, dairy, processed foods, tea, coffee and alcohol as these may decrease the effectiveness of your digestion. Try drinking herbal teas which aid digestion, such as fennel or peppermint.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie