Shellfish and Omega-3, Radiation and fatigue, Soy foods and cholesterol

Q: How do shrimp and other shellfish rate as sources of omega-3 fat?
Q: Radiation treatment for cancer has left me extremely fatigued. Any suggestions?
Q: Do soy-based foods lower blood cholesterol?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How do shrimp and other shellfish rate as sources of omega-3 fat?

A: Lobster is usually quite low in omega-3 fat, the type of fat identified as protective against heart disease, dementia, inflammation and potentially cancer. Shrimp, scallops and clams are moderate sources of the essential fat, providing about a third of what you get from oily fish like salmon, which is categorized as an excellent source. Oysters on the other hand, go toe-to-toe with salmon; a three-ounce portion of each provides about 1 gram of omega-3 fat, the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association for people with coronary artery disease. Mussels aren’t far behind and also rate as good sources of omega-3 fat. In addition to these choices, fin fish other than salmon that are high in omega-3 fat include Atlantic or Spanish mackerel, herring, sardines, rainbow trout, seabass and bluefin or albacore (white) tuna.

Q: Radiation treatment for cancer has left me extremely fatigued. Any suggestions?

A: Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) occurs in up to 96 percent of people treated for cancer. It can resolve within a few weeks after the last radiation therapy treatment, but may last up to a year post-treatment. Make sure to talk with your physician and health care team, as fatigue related to anemia, breathing problems, medications or dehydration can be reduced. Depression can also contribute to fatigue, but treating it doesn’t always relieve overwhelming fatigue. A simple prescription for “rest” does not resolve cancer-related fatigue, but getting enough sleep at night does help. Below is a list of additional hints for alleviating CRF:

  • Try adding one or two short naps (less than an hour) to your day
  • Light to moderate exercise can reduce fatigue, improve mood, maintain strength and support quality sleep; check with your doctor to make sure it’s OK for you
  • Working with a registered dietitian can help give you meal planning ideas that meet your nutritional needs, require little or no preparation and accommodate any food intolerances you experience
  • Adequate fluid can reduce fatigue and prevent build up of cell waste. General advice is to aim for 8 to 12 eight-ounce cups daily, but talk with your health care team about your individual needs

Q: Do soy-based foods lower blood cholesterol?

A: Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently allows soy-based foods to feature health claims promoting their heart-health benefits, new research suggests that the link between soy and cholesterol is not as solid as scientists once thought. A recent study tested the impact of 24 grams of soy protein a day on blood cholesterol and found no significant effect. (As a reference, 1 cup fortified soymilk provides about 6-7 grams of soy protein, 1/2 cup tofu has roughly 10 grams and 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts about 11 grams.) Other recent studies have also suggested that we may not be able to count on the cholesterol-related benefits we’d once expected soy to deliver. However, soy’s effects – specifically its role in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol – may be greater in people with more severe cholesterol elevations. Effects may also depend on what type of soy foods are chosen, what previously eaten foods they replace and what foods continue to be eaten that may accentuate soy’s benefits. Unprocessed soy foods like tofu, edamame, soymilk and soy nuts certainly still have a place in a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet. These choices are a great replacement for fatty meat, high-fat dairy products and snack foods high in trans fat – key protagonists in raising blood cholesterol. Just don’t expect to simply add soy foods to an unhealthy diet and benefit.

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