Considered one of the essential fatty acids, Omega 3s are essential to human health.
The problem is our bodies are unable to make them on their own!
So that leaves the food we eat as our main source of Omega 3.
Of course, we can, and most of us should, also take an Omega 3 supplement to ensure that our body has all of the important fattyacids that it needs to build muscles and maintain proper cell growth.
Omega 3s are considered a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is crucial to maintain proper brain function, growth and development.
An important anti-inflammatory, one of Omega 3’s jobs is to help prevent such degenerative diseases as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and even memory loss.
Of course, Omega 3s also aid in keeping skin taut and smooth, thus playing an important role in keeping us looking younger longer. From warding off wrinkles, to helping to keep coronary arteries clear, Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to all sorts of health benefits, which we will discuss in detail in the upcoming pages.
First, let’s look at the three main types of Omega 3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA and ALA.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is a very important Omega 3 fatty acid.
New research indicates that EPA can actually prevent a heart attack or stroke. One study even reported that people with low levels of EPA in their body are as much as 47% more likely to suffer a cardiac episode than those with sufficient levels of EPA in their system.
To keep a sufficient amount of EPA in your system, you would need to eat between 400 and 500 grams of cold water fish such as sardines, mackerel, or salmon 2-3 times per week. Few people, unfortunately, can stomach that much deep-sea fish. Even if you could, most experts warn against it since so many of the world’s fish are now contaminated with mercury and other toxins.
So what’s the alternative? Taking 1,000 mg of EPA rich fish oil on a daily basis is considered by most experts to work well at keeping EPA blood levels just as high as eating large amounts of deep sea fish. Keep in mind though, that EPA also needs DHA in order to work properly, so be sure any supplement you buy contains both.
What Is DHA?
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is another very important Omega 3 fatty acid needed by the body to achieve optimal health. It is one of the longest chains of PUFA’s found in Omega 3s. It is also essential to good brain function. Nearly one fourth of the brain is made up of DHA and without this important fat, you can suffer from several mental disorders, depression, or even Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)!
In fact, scientific research has demonstrated a correlation between increased DHA levels and decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease. Worse yet, without the right amount of DHA, your brain is unable to tell all of your organs what to do. Your heart can’t beat and your lungs can’t breathe without an order from your brain.
Even if a low DHA level doesn’t cause your body to go into catastrophic breakdown, it can leave you susceptible to a myriad of diseases or illness.
Now that you know how important getting the right amount of DHA is to overall health and wellbeing, you may be wondering what your best source of it is… fish oil.
You can get DHA laden fish oil in one of two ways:
By eating more fatty fish or by taking a DHA supplement. Either way, the important thing to remember is that both EPA and DHA are crucial Omega 3 fatty acids that you must get regularly in order to ward off disease.
Why is ALA Fatty Acids So Important?
Found mainly in dark green, leafy vegetables, flax seed, and walnuts, Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) can do something other Omega 3 fatty acids can’t: if your body needs them, it can convert ALA into both DHA and EPA. This is a unique and wonderful ability, since our bodies needs these important Omega 3 fatty acids to stay healthy.
Omega 3 fatty acids are the good fats in our healthy diets. They are the fats our body needs to properly function.
They help keep our heart functioning at a healthy rate. Keeps our brains functioning as we age and help infants gain information. Omega acids also help keep our joints functioning.
While our diet recommends we limit our oil and fat consumption, we do need them. Fat and oil help keep our bodies at our peak
performance. Fat is what keeps our bodies on the move, this is why it is best to get the healthier versions. The healthy oils provided by fatty acids help keep the fats consumed from turning into heart clogging cholesterol. This is also avoided when you limit your fat intake in your diet.
While adding Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet does have health benefits always discuss with your doctor. They will be able to provide resources for what source works best for your diet.
We have all heard the speech given that we need a healthy diet. Over the decades this became an issue with the invention of snack foods. It became easier to just grab the unhealthy snack foods instead of finding healthier alternatives. This is why the average diet is full of unhealthy fat, salt, and sugar.
Over the decades, we have seen the health problems involved with this diet. Including diabetes, heart attacks, cholesterol issues, hypertension of the heart, obesity. When you are used to an unhealthy diet it gets harder to reverse it properly. This process is much less complicated if you start with small changes and keep them so they become habits. This process can take up to a month of doing the new changes for it to become a habit.
Where Do They Come From?
While the Omega 3 and 6 acids are essential to our bodies, we do not produce them on our own. We can only get these acids by food or supplement sources. Our bodies absorb the natural sources much easier.
This is why doctors recommend eating the fish and nuts for those deficient in fatty acids. You want your diet to be varied in the sources in which you get these acids. This helps to prevent you becoming bored with the foods you are eating. You can do this by eating a large variety of the fish available as well as the nuts, seeds, and plants.
DHA and EPA are found in fish such as halibut, salmon, anchovies, blue fish, mackerel, trout, bass, sardines and tuna. Keep in mind wild salmon fish has more omega 3 acids than the farmed variety. It is the same with the trout, the lake trout have more acids than the farmed trout. You can get fish from your local butcher, fish monger, or grocery stores.
While it is more expensive in some areas the health benefits outweigh the costs. If possible find sales, or even go fishing this will reduce costs. Fish can be frozen for later consumption just make sure to check for pin bones to reduce the risk of choking. It is also recommended that pregnant women not eat farmed fish or blue tuna. They both have a higher risk of contaminants such as mercury, lead, and pesticides.
ALA Is found in walnuts, flax seeds and oil canola oil, soybeans and soybean oils. Smaller amounts of the acids are found in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and some varieties of lettuce. It is also found in sunflower seeds and oil, cashews, pumpkin seeds and peanuts. This is why doctors recommend things like mixed nuts to help obtain this fatty acid. Dark leafy greens are also a source of iron essential for hemoglobin production in the blood.
Note: It is recommended that young children do not eat nuts until they are four years old at the minimum
Well that’s a basic introduction into what Omega 3 is and why it is so healthy. Over the next few chapters we will take a more in depth look at the history of Omega 3, how it can aid the whole family and how to choose the right form of Omega 3.