Daily Nutrition Blog
Why You Need Omega-3s From Diet or Supplements
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that occur naturally in fish oils, plants, such as flax or spinach, and certain nuts. When nutrients are called "essential," it means that our bodies cannot create the specific nutritional compound from foods we eat. To obtain adequate amounts of essential nutrients, we must eat foods that already contain them or take supplements.
There are three omega-3 essential fatty acids, EPA, DHA and ALA. EPA and DHA are usually found together in fish, while ALA comes from flaxseed oil, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, and walnuts. Doctors and scientists recommend that people include omega-3s in their diets for their health benefits.
Here are a few of the top health improvements you may experience from omega-3s.
There has been a great deal of research proving that omega-3s have tremendous health benefits, including reducing inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a key factor in signs and symptoms of aging, cardiovascular health and heart disease, so any reduction in inflammation is bound to improve overall health.
Improved heart health
The American Heart Association has issued recommendations that people with heart disease who have had a heart attack consume at east one gram of omega-3s per day. Omega-3s reduce heart rate and stabilize arrhythmias. Since this amount may be difficult to get from food, people with heart disease should consider taking a fish-oil supplement to achieve the recommended dosage.
Balanced blood chemistry
Omega-3s have also been shown to improve blood chemistry by increasing HDL (healthy fats) and reducing triglycerides and LDL (low density lipoprotein), both of which are considered "bad fat." There is also increasing evidence that omega-3s can lower blood pressure, as long as it isn't consumed with highly salted fish such as smoked salmon or herring.
Prevent some types of stroke
Some strokes are caused by plaque build up in arteries leading to the brain, and there is some conjecture that omega-3s can help reduce the likelihood of this type of stroke. Bleeding inside the brain causes other strokes, and Omega-3s will not reduce the incidence of this type of stroke.
Other health improvements
Symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism, both diseases that cause pain and inflammation in the joints, may be alleviated or reduced by omega-3s. Scientists have linked omega-3s to improvements in mood and in lessening depression; decreasing the incidence of ADHD in children; delaying the onset or reducing the severity of symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's; and possibly preventing colon and breast cancers.
Research in all these areas is continuing, but it makes sense to do what you can to ensure that your diet includes adequate amounts of essential omega-3s. You should add 2 to 3 servings per week of salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, anchovies or tuna if you can. Just in case, you might also want to consider taking a daily fish-oil capsule supplement to be sure you are taking advantage of the amazing health benefits of omega-3s.