What exactly are omega-3 fatty acids and why are they important? Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acids that your body can’t produce, so they must be included in your diet. The three most important omega-3s are ALA, DHA, and EPA. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and what foods to eat to ensure you are getting enough omega-3s in your diet.
Health Benefit #1: Heart health
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Heart disease is an epidemic in the United States and many people could greatly benefit from taking steps to improve their heart health. Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids have numerous benefits relating to heart health. These benefits include raising “good” cholesterol levels while reducing triglycerides, blood pressure, blood clots, plaque in arteries, and inflammation. Ensuring that you are consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is a great way to lower your risk of heart disease.
Health Benefit #2: Eye health
As mentioned earlier, DHA is one of the primary omega-3 fatty acids. When you aren’t consuming enough DHA in your diet, you may be at risk of developing vision problems. People who are consuming sufficient omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to experience conditions such as age-related muscular degeneration (AMD) as they get older. Furthermore, researchers have found that patients with AMD who have been treated with high doses of omega-3s have experienced improvements in their vision.
Health Benefit #3: May help with depression and mental disorders
In addition to heart and eye health, omega-3 fatty acids can be instrumental in mental health and wellbeing as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of depression and anxiety have risen, and it is important that people are taking steps to support their mental wellbeing. Studies have found that people who take omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA, are less likely to be depressed and experience improvements in their depression and anxiety-related symptoms. In addition, studies have found omega-3s to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
How much omega-3 should I be consuming?
Estimates of the proper dose of omega-3 fatty acids tend to vary, but most organizations recommend doses of at least 250 to 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA and 1.6 grams of ALA daily. Dose recommendations vary from person to person. If you are looking to begin taking omega-3s for a specific medical condition, check with your physician to see which dose is right for you.
What foods have omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in high doses in a variety of foods. Foods with the highest levels of omega-3s are fatty fish and fish oils, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, and chia seeds. It is recommended that people consume whole foods that are high in omega-3s, such as fatty fish, at least twice a week. If you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from eating foods with sufficient levels of omega-3s, consider taking a dietary supplement such as fish oil to ensure that you are meeting your omega-3 needs.