Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient for a healthy and optimal functioning heart, and supplements are the best ways to get them. Your doctor may have prescribed them or you may be popping them daily, but how much do you really know about omega-3? Here’s your quick-know guide to it.
Good Fat: Why?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are essential for a healthy body. They are important for various bodily functions such as blood clotting, cell division, brain health, muscle health, fertility and also regulating the movement of substances in and out of your cells.
Humans are not equipped to synthesize omega-3s in their bodies and hence these essential fatty acids should be obtained from food. Before we talk about the various sources of omega-3 acids, let’s have a look at its three different types:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Of these three variants, DHA and EPA are known to be the most beneficial to health and are amply found in fatty fish and marine krill. ALA, on the other hand, is mainly found in plant sources such as flax, chia and hemp seeds, vegetable oils such as soya bean and canola, as well as green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and other salad greens. Once inside the body, ALA is converted to EPA and DHA at a very slow ratio.
How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Your Health?
1. Heart Health
Omega-3 acids curb inflammation in the blood vessels, thus protecting against heart ailments. They also stabilize abnormal heart rhythms and normalize and regulate triglyceride levels in the body. Low levels of triglycerides protect from plaque buildup in the blood vessels and therefore prevents heart disease. (Related Article: Have A Healthy Heart With These 3 Supplements)
2. Bone Health
Owing to its inherent property of reducing inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids also work wonders for people who suffer from arthritis and osteoporosis. They prevent fluid retention in the joints and increase circulation, thereby alleviating symptoms. (Related Article: Herbal Solutions: Fighting Tooth & Bone (Problems))
3. Brain Health
Several studies have observed that EPA and DHA keep our dopamine and serotonin levels high, improve circulation in the brain and also enhance neuronal growth. Low levels of omega-3 has been associated with ADHD and depression. These healthy fats may also protect against dementia and age-related mental decline. (Related Article: 5 Grains For A Healthy Brain)
Best Sources Of Omega-3 Acids
You can get all the omega-3 you need from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, tuna, sardines, stripped sea bass and anchovies. Be wary of fish contaminants such as industrial toxins and pollutants that enter the fish through water sources. Limit your fish intake to two times a week. Remove the skin and fat before cooking the fish. You can find delicious fish recipes here, here, here and here.
Dietary supplements containing omega-3 is another way of getting your daily dose of this essential fat, especially if you are a non-fish eater. Fish oil supplements are readily sold at all health and pharmacy stores. Another option you can consider is krill oil, which is derived from marine krill. This supplement has about 48 times the antioxidant capacity as compared to fish oil.
Always speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before starting on any supplements. They can help you determine the correct dosage depending on your requirements. Read the label on the bottle to determine the ratio of DHA, EPA and ALA.