Omega-3 fatty acids are amazing for supporting our minds, bodies and overall health! Maybe you’ve heard about them but aren’t sure where to get them or why they’re important. Here we’ll answer the biggest questions about omega-3 fats and cover the top benefits of including them in your diet.
What are Omega-3 fats?
Omega-3 fats are known as essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies can’t make them and we must get them from food or supplements.
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
Where Can We Get Omega-3 fats?
Sources of DHA and EPA include: fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, lake trout, tuna and anchovies, as well as seaweed.
Sources of ALA include: flaxseed, walnuts, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale or broccoli, and canola oil.
Our bodies can convert ALA to DHA and EPA, but only about 1% or less is converted. So it’s very important to get DHA and EPA from food and/or supplements. The American Heart Association recommends doing this by eating at least two servings per week of fish.
While it’s best to get most omega-3 fats from foods, we can also take them in supplement form from fish oil or an algae-based DHA supplement for vegetarians.
What are the Benefits of Taking Omega-3 fats?
There are several ways omega-3 fats can support our health and wellness. Here are some of the top ones:
Omega-3 fats may help keep our hearts healthy! The American Heart Association recommends people with heart disease take one gram of EPA plus DHA per day to protect their tickers. Omega-3 fats may also be helpful in reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythm or heart arrhythmias.
Ingesting omega-3 fats may be able to fight inflammation in our joints, blood vessels and other places in the body.
Placebo-controlled trials on fish oil have been shown as beneficial for chronic inflammatory diseases, and may help make anti-inflammatory drugs more effective. There have also been several clinical trials done on the benefits of fish oil for different autoimmune diseases.
Research has shown that countries with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets tend to have lower levels of depression. Some studies show omega-3 fats may be helpful in calming mood disorders and even making antidepressants more effective, although more research is needed.
Omega-3 fats play a crucial role in the function and development of the brain! Some studies suggest a diet higher in omega-3 can help boost mental activity and mood, and has been linked to improvement in brain areas that control mood.
Lower intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to impulsivity, hostility and low mood.
Omega-3 supplements may also act as a helpful addition in the treatment of ADHD in children. Fish oil also seems to support the effects of antidepressants.
Supplementing with EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 may help joint pain and stiffness. Also, eating a diet high in omega-3 foods can help boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, omega-3 fatty acids are linked to many important functions in the body! To reap their benefits, aim to include them (especially DHA and EPA forms) in your diet daily.