What Is Omega 3 And Why Do You Need It?
Omega 3 fatty acids are called “essential fatty acids” because they are necessary for your health but, surprisingly, your body cannot produce them. You must take them in from the food you eat, or by taking a supplement.
If you’re wondering why Omega 3s are necessary, it’s because they are “building blocks.” That is, Omega 3 is a necessary part of the membrane of each cell in your body and there are somewhere between 50 million to 100 trillion of those!
The 3 Main Types of Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids come in 3 main varieties: Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), Eicosopentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the types that have received the most study and have been found to have the greatest health benefits.
Why Bother? What Are The Benefits Of Omega 3?
According to the American Heart Association, Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease.
Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly).
Moreover, Omega 3s, which are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), play a crucial role in brain function and brain development. Infants who do not get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems.
In addition to heart and brain health benefits, Omega 3 is also a natural anti-inflammatory which may help lower the risk of, or improve the symptoms of, chronic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and osteoarthritis.
On top of all of these potential benefits, studies have shown that Omega 3 can be helpful to people suffering from these diseases and problems:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
(Note, however, that while it is true that studies have shown that Omega 3s are beneficial for each of these problems, more research is needed in most cases either because the studies have yielded inconsistent results or because there have not been enough of them.)
What Are The Main Sources Of Omega 3s?
There are both plant and animal sources of Omega 3 fats.
ALA is mainly found in dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flax seeds and a variety of vegetable oils.
EPA and DHA, the types that pack the health benefit punch, are found mainly in cold water fish like salmon, cod, mackeral, tuna and hoki, although smaller amounts are contained in organically raised animal products like free-range eggs, chickens and grass-fed beef.
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least 2 servings of fish each week.
If you don’t like eating fish or, for any other reason, can’t eat enough Omega 3s, you can take a pure, molecularly distilled fish oil supplement to receive all of the health benefits listed earlier in this article.