Why You Want More Omega-3's In Your Diet
Why You Want More Omega-3's In Your Diet
Omega 3’s have been a hot topic in today’s healthcare system as well as the media. Most people are aware that Omega 3’s are good for them, but don’t realize WHY the body needs them or what the health benefits are. The goal of today’s blog post is to take a closer look at Omega-3 fatty acids to answer all these questions!
What Are Fats?
Fats can be divided into several categories:
(1) Saturated Fats - Found in animal based products (Butter, cheese, fatty meats & dairy products). A diet high in saturated fats may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
(2) Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA) - These are the Omega-9’s, found mainly in avocados, some nuts and olive oil. It is best consumed in raw forms.
(3) Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA) - These are the Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in safflower oil, sunflower oil, walnuts, peanuts, hemp, corn and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3’s are the most beneficial to health and most essential to our diet. They are found in flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, fish & seafood.
(4) Trans Fats - These are known as the ‘bad’ fats. These confer no health benefits and can be quite harmful to the body. Trans fats can be found in fried foods, margarines & processed baked goods like cookies and cakes.
What Are Omega 3’s?
The two major classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Often times these are the fatty acids that are lower in individuals living in Western countries. They are mainly found in oils from fish, vegetables and other plant sources. Omega 3 fatty acids are vital components of the membranes that surround all cells in the body. These fats are not made by the body in high amounts and thus, are considered essential in that they must be obtained from the diet.
There are three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is mainly found in nuts, seeds and their oils while DHA and EPA are mainly found in fish. ALA is converted to EPA and DHA in the body. However, the body can only convert limited amounts of ALA into EPA and DHA.
What are the Symptoms of an Omega-3 Deficiency?
Below are some signs that your body may need some more Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet:
What Are the Health Benefits of Omega’3’s?
Omega-3’s are known to be anti-inflammatory and thus can play a beneficial role in:
Depression & Anxiety
How To Increase Intake Of Omega-3’s?
Since the body does not produce Omega-3, they must be obtained either from the diet or through supplementation. Here is a list of foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids:
Keep in mind that fish like mackerel contain higher amounts of toxins like mercury, so it is best to get EPA and DHA from other types of fish like wild Alaskan fish. The FDA recommends no more than 12 oz of low mercury fish per week. Thus, another option to obtain adequate amounts of Omega-3’s without mercury is to consume high quality omega-3 supplements. Omega-3 supplementation can be a provide an important addition to a whole foods diet - by no means does supplements replace dietary fat! If supplementing, be sure to speak to your health care practitioner prior to starting, as Omega-3 fatty acids can interact with certain medications, mainly blood thinners.
What to Think About When Purchasing Omega-3 Supplements:
The truth is, we cannot survive without fat – so many bodily processes require it. Brain cells, immune cells, nerve cells, skin cells are all comprised of fat, which makes it an integral part of the body. Fats in the diet are a concentrated source of energy that fuels muscles and is a main component of cell membranes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that plays a crucial role in various health conditions as well as overall health. Consumption of healthy fats like Omega-3’s play a big role in good nutrition and Omega-3 supplementation can provide additional support to a whole foods diet. Ensuring high Omega-3 intake can go a long way in disease prevention and overall health!
** Disclaimer: The advice is in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.