Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s been several years now since the hype about Omega-3.
The question is “Does research show that Omega-3 is still beneficial to our health?”
The answer is yes!
Many experts believe that the level of Omega-3 in the average American diet has plummeted in recent years. Experts believe that just about all of us could use more Omega-3 in our diets.
Studies show that the U.S. has one of the lowest levels of DHA consumption in the world.DHA is the most important nutrient in Omega-3.
What is Omega-3?
How can you add it to your diet?
Who should take it, who should not take it?
What are the health benefits?
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3 consists of three fatty acids that are needed by our bodies to function normally. Our bodies do not make any of these three essential fatty acids. Therefore, we have to provide these nutrients to our bodies through foods and supplements.
Here’s a description of each of the three fatty acids and what they do:
1. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
It plays the most important role of the three fatty acids. DHA benefits our bodies in visual and mental development throughout life. It is the most abundant fatty acid found in the brain and the retina.
It’s a very important structural component of the nerve cells in the brain and eyes and also a key component of heart tissue.
Numerous studies have shown that everyone at any age, including children, will benefit from an adequate supply of DHA. DHA is found in fatty fish and organ meats.
2. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
It plays a role in good cardiovascular health. It helps reduce chronic inflammation.
EPA is recommended by the American Heart Association and the USDA Dietary Guidelines for good cardiovascular health. EPA is found in fatty fish.
3. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
ALA serves as a source of energy and is needed for skin health. It can be found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola.
ALA is broken down by our bodies into DHA and EPA although not efficiently. Approximately 5-10 % is converted to EPA and less than 1% of ALA is converted to DHA.
Health Benefits of Taking Omega-3
Research shows numerous health benefits of taking Omega-3. 4 Reasons why women need Omega-3?
1.Boost Heart Health
Strong evidence exists showing these essential fatty acids to boost heart health and lower triglycerides.
Fish oil can cut triglyceride levels of 20-50%. There are ongoing studies on other aspects of health benefits from Omega-3.
2.Lower Blood Pressure
Supporting studies show that Omega-3 can lower blood pressure and possibly cholesterol.
Eating fish once or twice a week seems to significantly lower the risk of stroke.
Studies show that DHA and EPA boost the health of pregnant women and the development of their children.
DHA appears to be important for visual and neurological development in infants.
There is ongoing research with Omega-3. Some of the research involves Omega-3’s effect on Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD in school-age children, diabetic kidney damage, skin conditions, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and some cancers. We will have to wait for the end results.
How To Add Omega-3 To Your Diet
Since our bodies don’t produce Omega-3. We need to eat the right foods which contain Omega-3. Take the right vitamin supplement to gain the health benefits offered by Omega-3.
Fish is the most important source of Omega-3. However, not everyone likes to eat sardines, salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, trout, oysters, dark tuna, or halibut. The American Heart Association as well as other experts agree that we need to eat fish two or three times a week to gain the health benefits.
Experts agree that it’s always best to get nutrients from food sources as opposed to supplements. In addition to the above-mentioned fish, Omega-3 is also found in organ meats such as the liver. Eating free-range beef and poultry have high levels of Omega-3 as opposed to grain-fed animals.
Because of the importance of Omega-3 to our health. There’s a lot of foods that are now fortified with Omega-3. Just take a stroll through your local supermarket.
You’ll see a surprising amount of items now enhanced with Omega-3. The list of foods enhanced with Omega-3 is increasing all the time.
Although not comprehensive, here are some of the food items that you’re most likely to find fortified with Omega-3:
- soy milk,
- waffle mixes,
- peanut butter,
- pumpkin seeds,
There are some fresh green leafy vegetables that contain ALA. Although ALA is the least powerful fatty acid in Omega-3. These vegetables offer other benefits from fiber to antioxidants. Produce such as spinach, parsley, mint, Brussel sprouts, watercress, and kale are your best sources of ALA.
Omega-3 Vitamin Supplements
Should you be taking an omega-3 supplement?
Fish oil supplements for Omega-3 is the second best way to add Omega-3 to your diet. Make sure any Omega-3 supplement you purchase has at least DHA and EPA in it.
They’re the two most beneficial fatty acids for your body. Omega-3 supplements are very inexpensive compared to a lot of other supplements which is good news for the consumer.
Experts agree that we need at least 1,000 mg a day of Omega-3 to gain the health benefits offered by this nutrient. Omega-3 is a safe supplement to take, however, you should always check with your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
There are three types of Omega-3 supplements to consider.
- First and foremost, is fish oil which usually contains both DHA and EPA. Fish oil is usually derived from anchovies and sardines. This supplement can be in capsule form or as an oil. Capsules are usually recommended as swallowing fish oil is not always pleasant.
- Secondly, there are plant sources such as flaxseed oil which is very appealing to vegetarians. The drawback of flaxseed oil is that it contains only ALA and not a very important DHA.
- Last, but not least, there’s algae oil capsules. This supplement is also appealing to vegetarians and it does contain the highly beneficial DHA fatty acid.
Risks of Taking an Omega-3 Supplement
The benefits of Omega-3 supplements are numerous and the risks are very low. However, check with your doctor to see what they recommend for a dosage.
Fish oil supplements may thin the blood so if you’re already taking an anticoagulant medicine like Coumadin or Plavix.
You need to check with your doctor before taking Omega-3 supplements.
The most common side effects may include indigestion, heartburn, or gas.
Tips For Choosing An Omega-3 Supplement
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a recommendation as they get feedback from their patients on what brands work well and which brands seem to have the most side effects.
- Take the right dosage amount. It’s easy to become confused about the dosage of Omega-3 so make sure you read the label. The front label may state that it’s 1,000 mg of Omega -3 fish oil. However, when you look at the ingredients it may state that it contains 1,000 mg of natural fish oil concentrate. The total Omega-3 fatty acid is 300 mg. If your doctor recommends that you take 1,000 mg of Omega-3 (DHA & EPA combined). Then you’ll need to take 3-4 capsules daily to meet that recommendation.
- Omega-3 is available by prescription and it may be covered by your health insurance thus saving you some money. Ask your doctor about prescription Omega-3 and then check with your health insurance to see if they cover the cost.
- Purchase capsules with an enteric coating. This may help with indigestion.
- If you have indigestion or gas from one brand, try another brand. Not all brands or generics are the same. Some brands just work better in certain people.
- Always take Omega-3 supplements with food. This may help reduce the risk of stomach upset.