Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that’s important for good health. They help your heart and brain, plus they can lower your risk of certain diseases, like Alzheimer’s and depression. Omega-3s also bolster your immune system and keep your heart beating regularly. But not all sources of omega-3s are created equal—some don’t offer enough EPA or DHA (the most beneficial types), while others may have been exposed to pesticides or other chemicals that could be harmful to consume regularly. So how do you get enough omega-3s without being stuck eating boring salads? Here’s what you need to know:
- Omega-3 fatty acids are important for good health.
- Fatty fish is the best way to get your omega-3 fatty acids.
- Plant sources of omega-3s aren’t as effective.
- Trans fats are bad for you.
- You might need a supplement if you’re not eating enough fish.
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids can help you meet your needs.
- To get the full benefits of omega-3s, eat fatty fish two times a week or more.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for good health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids because they’re vital to your health. They are also called long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and they have a wide range of positive effects on the body. Omega-3s can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and improve heart health. They also play an important role in brain development and function, normal growth and development during pregnancy and childhood, joint health, skin elasticity, hair growth and vision health.
Fatty fish is the best way to get your omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for good health, but you can only get them from certain foods. That’s why it’s important to know which foods are high in omega-3s.
Fatty fish is the best way to get your omega-3s because it has the most variety of fish and is also a low-calorie protein source that’s easy to prepare. The types of fatty fish that have the highest amounts of omega-3s include: salmon (wild), trout (freshwater farm raised), sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel.
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart disease by reducing triglyceride levels while lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots that lead to stroke or heart attack; they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol; they benefit pregnant women by reducing inflammation in their bodies; they improve cognitive function such as memory retention after age 40; they protect against Alzheimer’s disease as we age; they reduce joint pain/inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis; finally – did I mention how much better your brain works when you eat more omega-3s?
Plant sources of omega-3s aren’t as effective.
Plant sources of omega-3s, such as flaxseed oil and chia seeds, are not as effective as fish. They do not contain DHA and EPA, which are the key components of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. However, they can be converted to these essential fats in your body (more on this later).
ALA is an essential fatty acid that cannot be made by your body and must be consumed through dietary sources such as plant oils or meat from grass-fed animals. When ALA is consumed it gets converted into other types of omega-3s like EPA and DHA which have been linked with various health benefits including improved brain function.*
Trans fats are bad for you.
Trans fats are bad for you because they raise your levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower your levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This imbalance raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Trans fats also increase inflammation in the body—which can lead to weight gain, a weakened immune system, arthritis, cancer and even depression.
You might need a supplement if you’re not eating enough fish.
If you don’t eat enough fish, you might need a supplement. If you’re not eating enough fish to get the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, talk to your doctor about taking one or more of the following supplements:
- An omega-3 fatty acid capsule (typically containing 300 milligrams of EPA and 200 milligrams of DHA) taken twice daily with food as directed on the label. You can also find capsules that contain a combination of EPA and DHA, both substances found in fish oil. If you’re currently taking any medications or have certain health conditions, make sure to speak with your physician before adding any new supplements into your diet.
- A liquid form of omega-3s contains phospholipids—fatty acids that play an important role in cellular membranes—alongside EPA and DHA. It’s recommended that adults take two tablespoons per day; children ages 4–8 should take one tablespoon daily while kids under 4 should consume half a teaspoon daily.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids can help you meet your needs.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat fish, plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids can help you meet your needs.
Plant sources of omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and stearidonic acid (SDA). ALA is found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, canola oil and soybean oil. SDA is found in algae oil and purslane.
To get the full benefits of omega-3s, eat fatty fish two times a week or more.
- Eating fatty fish two times a week or more is the best way to get enough omega-3 fats.
- Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, are packed with powerful omega-3s that can help you stay healthy.
- Plant sources of omega-3 are not as effective at reducing inflammation and lowering your risk for heart disease and diabetes as eating fatty fish.
- Trans fats—commonly found in margarine and processed food—are bad for your heart health.
If you’re worried about getting enough omega-3s, eating fatty fish is a good way to get them. You can also try taking a supplement or eating more plant sources of omega-3s like walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and don’t eat much fish, make sure that your diet includes plenty of whole grains, nuts and seeds.