WHY OMEGA 3s ARE HEALTHY FAT
Do healthy fats even exist? Yes. Does the body make “good” fat naturally? No. You have to acquire it from the outside.
Omega-3s are a type of fatty acid, deemed an essential fatty acid because your body cannot manufacture it from other dietary sources.
(Essential oils, on the other hand, are not essential, but rather the “essence” of the plant they’re derived from.)
Omega 3 fatty acid intake is recommended for its benefits and preventative properties in the areas of:
✓ cardiovascular health
✓ cholesterol levels
✓ blood pressure
✓ post-workout recovery
✓ mood and attention span
✓ cancer prevention
✓ autoimmune disorders
Know Your Omega-3s
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) – Fish and Fish Oils
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) – Fish and Fish oils
ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) – Lush green veggies and Flaxseeds (the least important type)
A brief primer on fats: Omega-3 fatty acids, and their relatives Omega-6s and Omega-9’s, are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). While monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are often touted as the healthiest type of dietary fat, omega-3s are a special PUFA case you should focus on. The third common group, saturated fatty acids (SFAs), is generally recommended to be consumed in moderation—less than 10% of your total calories.
✓ Reduce Bad Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk
Omega-3s improve blood cholesterol levels by lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
Omega-3s curb inflammation in the body and decrease plaque formation in blood vessels, lessening the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory diseases. They also play a significant role in lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels. If you are a heart patient or have a strong family history of coronary heart disease, doctors may recommend fish or fish oil capsules along with dietary modifications i.e., cutting refined carbs such as white bread and rice, lowering alcohol intake, and increasing physical activity, among other things.
✓ Promote Muscle Recovery After Workout or Physical Training
The anti-inflammatory effect decreases muscle soreness and fatigue after exercise – DHA alone or in combination with EPA has an effective role in muscle recovery post-exercise.
✓ Slow Progression of Memory Loss in Old Age
DHA is an essential fatty acid for the functioning of the brain and brain cells. It is still not evident how it helps in lowering the dementia rate in senior citizens. It plays its role if a person begins supplementing early, before the onset of dementia.
✓ Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Circulation
Omega-3s help in reducing blood pressure, but you still have to keep your sources of dietary fat balanced and monitor your sodium intake.
✓ Help in Stroke Prevention
The aforementioned prevention of plaque formation in arteries also reduces the risk of strokes in high-risk patients. Here dosage is the key. High intake may increase the risk of bleeding strokes.
✓ Address Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you are experiencing joint stiffness and pain due to rheumatoid arthritis, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s may help, in addition to what your doctor prescribes you.
✓ Manage Depression, Anxiety and Stress
Omega-3s aren't a total cure-all. However, proper intake may reduce risk of mental and emotional problems. Studies found fewer mental issues in populations with diets higher in omega-3s.
✓ May Improve ADHD
Research shows that kids with ADHD showed some improvement in their attentiveness and behavior when given DHA. This may be due to the role DHA plays in blood circulation in the brain.
✓ Reduce Risk of Cancers
Regular intake of omega-3 can reduce chronic inflammation – the main cause of certain cancers. The anti-inflammatory effect can hinder cancer cell growth.
✓ Essential for Sperm Health and Healthy Pregnancy
DHA helps in healthy sperm growth and reduces the risk of preterm labor. Therefore, it’s advisable to take an omega 3 rich diet or supplements to conceive or even during active pregnancy. Low DHA status is associated with subfertility and low sperm quality in men. Getting adequate supplementation can increase both the life and motility of sperm.
The Five Best Ways to Get Omega-3s
Dietary DHA and EPA primarily comes from fish – and some have far more than others. The best fish sources are salmon (4,123 mg/serving), mackerel (4,107 mg/serving), sardines (2,205 mg/serving), anchovies (951 mg/serving), and herring (946 mg/serving). Salmon, mackerel, and herring make great fish fillets. (Farmed salmon tends to be fattier than wild salmon, and has more omega-3). Anchovies and sardines can be surprisingly tasty with the right sauce or dressing.
The American Heart Association recommends fish intake at least twice a week.
2) Certain Seeds and Nuts
If you aren’t a fish lover, plant-based sources include chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Chia and flax go easily in smoothies—start with small amounts however, because they are very high fiber. If you’ve never had toasted walnuts, you’re missing out.
3) Omega-3 enriched eggs
Omega-3 enriched eggs are now available and easy to find in health food stores, and typically have about 250 mg.
4) Leafy greens
You can get a small amount from vegetables. Go for green leafy veggies – spinach or broccoli. Use spinach in boiled or raw form. Sauté broccoli with regular meal for a nice side dish.
Even if you eat a diet high in omega-3s, consider supplementation
Don’t like any of these? Try one of the many omega-3 supplements based on fish oil, cod liver oil, or krill oil. You might get fish burps unless you look for one labeled “odorless”.
The Bottom Line
Your body doesn’t produce omega 3 fatty acids on its own, so you have to get it with diet or supplements.
It is a healthy fat that not only competes with the unhealthy fat in the body and replaces it but also performs various functions and reduces the risk of potential diseases.
Daily 200-300mg of DHA and EPA should be included in diet or supplement especially if your body undergoes continuous stress such as physical training.
Danielle Swanson, R. B., Shaker A. Mousa (2013). "Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life."
Millington, C. (2004). "The health benefits of omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a review of the evidence."