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Plant-based and animal sources of Omega-3 acids

Why You Should Choose Omega-3 Rich Foods in Your Diet

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   08/03/20

Nutrition  Supplements  

For years, health experts have touted the benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids, but most people don't understand why they are essential. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for the health of your body's cell membranes and provide benefits for blood vessels, immune systems, lungs, and endocrine systems.

  • Blog Post

    What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

    In a nutshell, omega-3s are a group of fatty acids that play essential roles in every person's body and are believed to provide multiple health benefits. The critical thing to remember when discussing omega-3 fatty acids is that your body cannot produce them naturally. That means everyone must get omega-3 fatty acids from their diets or some type of dietary supplement.

    There are three primary types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA). The majority of ALAs are from plants, but both EPA and DHA are found in algae or foods derived from animals.

    Foods that are rich in omega-3s include walnuts, fatty fish, and flax seeds. Many people use fish oils and flaxseed oil to boost their omega-3 intake, but others use some type of omega-3 supplement to achieve their dietary goals.

    Health experts agree that that ALA can, to some degree, be converted to EPA and DHA, but not in high enough quantities to provide for an average person's dietary needs. That means the only way to acquire sufficient amounts of all three omega-3s is to consume sufficient amounts.

    What Common Foods Include Omega-3s?

    Many foods that contain omega-3s naturally, but there are other foods that have omega-3s added. Most health experts recommend consuming a variety of foods to get the most omega-3s possible. The foods most commonly recommended include:

    • Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and other types of fish and seafood. Fish are the best sources of omega-3s, so it's always important to take steps to boost your intake of fish.1
    • Walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed are high in omega-3s and are common ingredients in many "healthy" recipes. Of course, walnuts also make great snack foods for people looking for ways to boost their intake of omega-3s.
    • Canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil all provide omega-3s. They can easily be used daily to boost a person's intake of omega-3s. If another oil is called for in a recipe, consider substituting one of these oils.
    • Many fortified foods. Yogurts, soy beverages, and some brands of eggs are fortified with additional omega-3s. When shopping, look for brands that include added omega-3s to ensure you and your family are getting a sufficient supply.

    Take the time to plan your meals so they include omega-3s. It's not difficult to include fish, nuts, oils, and fortified foods in your meals.

    Are You Getting Enough Omega-3s in Your Diet?

    Since there are no established numbers to use, determining if you're getting enough omega-3s isn't always easy. Rough, scaly skin and rashes are common signs of a deficiency, but most people who are not getting enough omega-3s may not see outward signs of problems.

    Because everyone's needs will vary, it's generally good to err on the side of caution and make sure your diet is rich in omega-3s. However, it's also essential to look at the benefits of an omega-3-rich diet.

    Established Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Scientists and health experts have been researching and documenting the many benefits of omega-3s for years, and it's important to review some of their findings.

    • Omega-3s and depression. Depression is one of the world's most-common disorders. Studies have shown that people who routinely consume enough omega-3s tend to be less depressed.2 In addition, those studies demonstrate that patients who up their intake of omega-3s experience fewer symptoms.
    • Heart Disease risk factors and omega-3s. Another group of studies determined that, when fish make up a significant part of the subjects' diets, their odds of experiencing heart disease are reduced. Plaque is reduced, blood pressure improves, and triglycerides are reduced. Those are significant benefits.
    • Omega-3s reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is far too common and frequently contributes to a number of serious health conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids lead to a significant reduction in the molecules linked to common inflammatory conditions.
    • Upping Omega-3 consumption reduces age-related mental decline. While additional research is certainly needed, preliminary findings point to a reduction in both age-related mental decline and Alzheimer's. That's especially true if the consumption of omega-3s is increased during early stages of those issues.
    • Consuming omega-3s may improve bone and joint health. Arthritis and osteoporosis are common issues facing many people as they age. Recent studies suggest omega-3s increase the amount of calcium in bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, patients experiencing significant pain from arthritis have seen their pain levels decrease with the use of omega-3 supplements.
    • Omega-3s are also linked to improved fetal development. Pregnant women are encouraged to consume seafood.3 Of course, seafood that are high in methyl mercury should be avoided. Discuss which types of seafood to eat with your physician.
    • Chronic respiratory issues may be reduced with omega-3s. There is some evidence that respiratory issues, especially asthma, can be avoided or reduced by consuming sufficient levels of omega-3s.
    • There are other benefits as well, so if you're experiencing medical issues, take the time to discuss the potential benefits of adding omega-3s to your diet with your physician.

      Get Started Now

      If you lack omega-3s, now is the time to deal with that issue. At the same time, it's important to review your entire diet and exercise plan to determine where and how to obtain any needed omega-3s.

      The majority of health professionals recommend getting your omega-3s from whole food, like nuts and fish, but using a supplement to boost your intake of omega-3s may be necessary. Again, it's important to discuss any changes in your diet with a physician. Your doctor may have recommendations related to your specific health needs.

      To get started, discuss your concerns and needs with a healthcare professional today. Once your needs are determined, sit down with those providers to discuss which foods and supplements will best fill those needs.

      1 Omega-3 Fatty Acids,
      2 17 Science-Based Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids,
      3 7 Things To Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids,
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