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Omega-3s at a Glance

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are essential nutrients for health and life. They are needed to support numerous body functions such as blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Our bodies can’t make them so we must get them from the food we eat.

There are three types of Omega-3s; the first two, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, and other seafood including algae and krill.

The third, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plant sources like nuts and seeds and can be found in some vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, and flaxseed, and in walnuts. Flaxseed is by far the best source. It is also found in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. Eggs that are enriched with Omega-3s can be found in stores for purchase.

Cardiac Benefits

Diets high in cold water fish give plenty of cardiac benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk, reduce irregular heartbeats, and in children may improve learning ability. And according to the American Heart Association, at least two servings of fish per week will help prevent heart attacks.

Besides heart disease, research has also shown that Omega-3s also may lower the risk of other chronic diseases and illnesses:

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Some research suggests that eating Omega-3s may help prevent these two illnesses, and may play a role in slowing memory loss attributed to aging.

Asthma
A diet high in Omega-3s lowers inflammation, a causative agent in asthma.

Baby development
Omega-3 appears to be important for the visual and central nervous system development in infants and children.

Cancer
Eating fish is associated with a reduced mortality with prostate cancer. Studies have also shown a decrease in breast and colon cancers.

Depression
Studies have shown that people who eat foods high in Omega-3s have less depression. Taking fish oil also seems to boost the effects of antidepressants and may help bipolar disorders.

Eye health
Diets rich in Omega-3s are said to help prevent macular degeneration, glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome.

Osteoporosis
High intake may help increase calcium levels to improve bone strength by increasing bone density

Rheumatoid arthritis
Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements can reduce inflammation to the joints reducing stiffness and joint pain.

Skin
Eating healthy amounts of Omega-3 is good for the skin. It can help soften, reduce wrinkles, reduce sunburn, decrease acne and skin disease symptoms.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Diets high in Omega-3 may reduce symptoms of lupus.

If you don’t like fish, there are fish oil supplements available in capsule or liquid form. Be aware that fish oil supplements are not created equally. There are varying ratios of DHA and EPA. For people who complain about fish taste and indigestion after taking them, an option is to take the enteric-coated form.

References
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614

Help for Vegetarians
http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/omega3

2 replies
  1. Krista says:

    Great info! I just started taking fish oil supplements a few days ago (3 x daily). Hoping to benefit from this heavily researched nutrient!

    Reply

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