Nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils can be good for your heart

SINGAPORE: Going nuts over nuts? You're on the right track.

A local study has found that omega-3 fatty acids from plants are as good for the heart as those from animals.

Both lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, which kill a third of Singaporeans annually.

"I think a lot of people know about fish oil," said Assistant Professor Pan An of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, who co-authored the study.

"There are a lot of studies out there saying dietary intake of fish oil is good for your heart, and this notion has been widely believed for many years."

But the hearty goodness of nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils is less well-known, Prof Pan added.

The study, surveyed more than 60,000 Singaporean Chinese on their dietary habits.

It was a collaboration between the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, and the National Heart Centre Singapore.

Both fish and vegetable omega-3 fatty acids worked equally well, and those who took the most were 15 per cent less likely to die of coronary heart disease than the group which took the least.

This group was also 18 per cent less likely to die of stroke.

Prof Pan said that people should cook with healthy oils like soyabean and canola, rather than palm and coconut oils which have a large amount of saturated fat.

Walnuts and flaxseed are also especially high in omega-3, although most nuts contain some of this "good fat", said Prof Pan.

Eating 30g of walnuts or a small fish two to three times a week should suffice, he added.

This is particularly good news for vegetarians or those who might not like seafood.

"If you like seafood, eat seafood," Prof Pan said.

"But you don't necessarily have to eat fish to get the protective effect."