The omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health. But because your body can’t produce these fatty acids, it is up to you to make sure you are incorporating them into your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish—such as salmon, tuna, halibut, algae and krill—some plants, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.
The omega-3’s play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. In fact, infants who don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk of developing vision and nerve problems. Anyone low on their omega-3’s may suffer from fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Because omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish—such as mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore, tuna, and salmon—at least 2 times a week, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
They also help reduce inflammation, lower the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and arthritis, prevent mood disorders, improve bone health, regulate cholesterol and blood pressure, improve IQ, and prevent degenerative disorders.
There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids. The important ones—EPA and DHA—are found in certain fish—salmon, tuna, halibut, etc. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is partially converted into DHA and EPA in the body. Good sources of ALA include walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil, and soybean oil.
While foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have health benefits, some—like oils and nuts—can be high in calories. So eat them in moderation.
*Join us next week as we cover the Omega-6 fatty acids!
Associated Risks:It’s always best to get omega-3’s from food rather than supplements, as high doses (more than three grams per day) may increase the risk of bleeding, even in people without a history of bleeding disorders—and even in those who are not taking other medications. Some species of fish, such as tuna, may carry a higher risk of environmental contamination, such as mercury poisoning.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should only take dietary supplements under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Omega-3 fatty acids should be taken cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood thinning medications, including Warfarin (Coumadin), Clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
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