Category : Nutrition & You
There are many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows strong evidence that the omega-3s EPA and DHA can boost heart health and lower triglycerides. And there are compelling studies showing that omega-3 fatty acids may help with other conditions — rheumatoid arthritis, depression, nervous disorders, skin problems and many more.
Just what are omega-3 fatty acids exactly? How much do you need? And what do all those abbreviations — EPA, DHA, and ALA — really mean? Here’s a rundown of the essential omega-3 facts you need to know.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Basics
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids are considered essential fatty acids. We need them for our bodies to work normally. Because essential fatty acids (ALA,DHA,EPA) are not made in the body or are inefficiently converted from ALA to EPA and DHA, we need to get them from food
- Omega-3s have a number of health benefits. Omega-3s reduce inflammation throughout the body — in the blood vessels, the joints, and elsewhere. Omega-3 supplements (EPA/DHA) also seem to thin the blood and aid cell function.
- There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids.Two crucial ones — EPA and DHA — are primarily found in certain fish. Plants like flax contain ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is partially converted into DHA and EPA in the body. Algae oil often provides only DHA.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Benefits
- Blood pressure and cholesterol:According to a number of studies, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can lower blood pressure. Fish oil can also cut triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%.
- Cardiovascular health:Omega-3 fatty acids appear to lower the overall risk of death from heart disease. Fish oil may reduce arrhythmia’s, and people who take omega-3 supplements after a heart attack cut their risk of having another heart attack. Eating fish once or twice a week seems to significantly lower the risk of stroke.
- Rheumatoid arthritis:A number of studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce stiffness and joint pain. Omega-3s also seem to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory
- Depression:Researchers have found that cultures that eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression. Fish oil also seems to boost the effects of antidepressants. Fish oil may help reduce the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Food Sources
- When Possible, try to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods rather than supplements.
- Fish high in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, include anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna. Many experts recommend eating these fish two to three times a week
- Good food sources of ALA — which is converted into omega-3 fatty acids in the body — include walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil, and soybean oil.
- While foods containing omega-3 acids have health benefits, some — like oils and nuts — can be high in calories. So eat them in moderation.