Let’s talk Fatty Acids, shall we? If you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, you have probably heard about Omega fatty acids, especially Omega-3. You know Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your health, but unsure exactly why.
Omega-3 has many powerful health benefits for your body from your heart, joints, brain, and even mood.
If you don’t eat fish, which is a vital source of these healthy fats, it’s important to know how to navigate natural sources or take a supplement to get proper intake.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats. The “essential” part means that the body cannot make them on its own, so you have to get them from food or supplements. So for that very reason, you must consume omega-3 fatty acids through food every day. (1) (2)
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital components of cell membranes, allowing nerve impulses to pass easily between cells. They’re also the building blocks for hormones that control inflammation, blood clotting, and relaxation and contraction of artery walls. (3)
There are three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) plentiful in fish and seafood, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) found in flax, chia or hemp seeds, flax or canola oil, walnuts, soybeans, and many fortified foods. (1)
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish (particularly coldwater fish) at least twice a week.
*The FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that young children, women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breast-feeding mothers groups limit the amount of fish they eat.
Don’t eat fish? Hate taking pills to get your recommend daily intake of Omega 3s? Are you tired of belching up fish oil supplements? No problem! I’ve found some natural food sources and plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids to add to your diet.
Here is a helpful list of foods and natural sources you can start incorporating into your diet.
- Atlantic mackerel
- Lake trout
- Canned, light tuna
- Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, and Hemp Seeds
- Flaxseed oil, Soybean Oil, Canola oil
- Soybeans or Edamame
- Kidney, Pinto, & Navy Beans
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green leafy vegetables
Here are some health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
- Mood Booster for Anxiety & Depression-Mental health has been something that has been gaining awareness, especially nowadays. Depression and anxiety are common mental disorders. There have been studies that indicate people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to have depressed feelings. Furthermore, when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms improve. Consuming Omega-3 has also been known to help women during menopausal depression. Surprising even one study found EPA to be found as effective against depression as a common antidepressant drug.(4), (5)(6, 7, 8) (9).
- Improve Eye Health-Omega-3 can help improve your eye health. It is actually the DHA, a type of omega-3, a major structural component of your eye’s retina. Did you know that when you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise? Interestingly enough, Omega-3 has been linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness. (10) (11), (12).(13), (14).
- Heart Health-Omega-3 has been linked in many proven studies to improving your heart health. Heart attacks and strokes have been the world’s leading causes of death. Omega-3s help keep your heart healthy and protect against stroke. Not to mention, it also helps improve your heart health if you already have heart disease. Several studies have shown that individuals who consumed fatty fish a few times per week had almost one-half the risk of death from coronary heart disease and almost one-third the risk of death from a heart attack compared to those who consumed no fish. (15) (16) (17)(18).
- Fight Inflammation-What is inflammation? Inflammation is a natural response to infections and damage in your body; the reason why it is vital for your health. Unfortunately, inflammation can sometimes persist for a long time, without any signs of an infection or injury. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines. The American Heart Association journal Circulation Research found that consuming fish oil supplements containing a specific omega-3 fatty acid formula can reduce inflammation. Studies have consistently observed a connection between higher Omega-3 intake and reduction in inflammation. (22) (23) (24), (25), (26).
- Help Fight Autoimmune Diseases-Autoimmune diseases is when your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them. One prime example of this is Type 1 diabetes, in which your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Omega-3s can combat some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life. Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) Gina M. Finzi found that consuming a diet with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) prevented the disease’s development. DHA’s ability to minimize inflammatory pathways in immune cells. Studies have shown that getting enough Omega-3s during the beginning years of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Omega-3s also help treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis. (19) (29) (30) (31)(32) (33,) (34) (35)
- Reduce Fatty Liver-Fatty liver disease is not just in alcoholics. Did you know that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is more common than you think? In today’s Western diet, it has increased with the obesity epidemic to become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world. Surprising news; supplementing Omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces liver fat and inflammation in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (36) (37) (38).
- Bone and Joint Health– Bone and joint health are vital in your day to day life. The good news is that studies have indicated that Omega-3s can improve bone strength by boosting the amount of calcium in your bones, which should lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis. There have also been studies that Omega-3s may also treat arthritis. Patients taking Omega-3 supplements have reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength. (39) (40) (41)
- Improve Sleep–Ah, getting a great night’s sleep. Making sure you get ample sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health. Sleep deprivation has been linked to many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and depression. Studies have shown that low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Even more, low DHA levels are also linked to lower levels of the hormone called melatonin, which helps you fall asleep naturally. This research revealed that supplementing with omega-3 increases the length and quality of sleep in children and adults. (42) (43) (44) (45). (46) (47) (48).
- Skin Health-Everyone wants healthy and great skin, right? Did you know that DHA is a structural component of your skin? We already talked about that it is responsible for cell membranes’ health, but those cell membranes make up a large part of your skin. A healthy cell can result in soft, moist, supple skiing, even wrinkle-free skin. EPA is also vital to your skin in several ways. It helps manage your skin’s oil production and hydration, reduces premature aging of your skin, & reduces acne risk. Surprisingly enough, Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. That is because the EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away at the collagen in your skin after sun exposure. Pretty cool. (49) (50). (51)
- Brain Health-Omega-3 is important for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. Some researches suggest that Omega-3s may help protect against or slow down Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Increasing Omega-3s had a positive effect on gradual memory loss linked to aging. But it’s not 100% certain yet. What was found is that patients with Alzheimer, had lower levels of fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA. In conclusion, it is important to ensure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids to avoid some of these effects on brain function and development. (52) (53)
Bottom Line: When it comes to fat, there’s one type you don’t want to cut back on, which is omega-3. Ensure you are getting them from whole foods, such as fatty fish, two times per week, and other natural sources to ensure your daily recommended intake. If you don’t eat many fatty fish or foods that are high in Omega-3, you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement. *Omega-3 dietary supplements, such as fish oil, have the potential to interact with medications. Make sure to talk with your physician before taking any new supplements or medications.