Omega-3s are also often simply termed “the good fat.” But they are much more than simply warriors against the “bad fat” – the kind that kills. Omega-3s are considered “essential fatty acids” for a laundry list of reasons that continues to grow each year. In this post, learn about the importance of including omega-3s in a healthy diet for people of all ages.
These essential fatty acids are actually poly-unsaturated fatty acids, of which three are primarily critical to maintaining human health.
Here are the top three Omega-3s you need to be aware of:
– DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). Animal-based and usually found in marine life oils.
– EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Also animal-based and usually found in marine life oils.
– ALA (α-linolenic acid). Plant-based and usually found in plant oils.
The optimal way to take in Omega-3s is through your food. If it proves too difficult to take in sufficient quantities through diet alone, there are some very beneficial supplements, including fish oil, that can help boost your intake.
Before you can decide whether diet alone will be an adequate source of Omega-3s, it can help to know the foods that are richest in these essential fatty acids. The most important Omega-3s are the ones that are animal-based, so be sure to concentrate your dietary modification and/or supplementation efforts there first.
For DHA and EPA, these foods have the highest levels:
– Fish. Anchovies, salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, herring, mackerel, sturgeon, lake trout, bluefish, wild swordfish, tilefish, shark….the list goes on. Fish oil capsules are also a great way to consume omega-3s. If you interested in learning more about the great benefits of fish oil, Dr. Axe gives some great insight on some fish oil benefits proven beyond medicine.
A NOTE ABOUT TOXINS: If you are pregnant or choosing a menu for your child, try to avoid all fish that are known to contain high mercury and other toxins (shark, tilefish, swordfish and tuna are good examples). Also be careful where farm-raised fish are sourced from before deciding to eat them.
For ALA, these foods have the highest levels:
– Chia seeds.
– Oils: Canola, soybean, flax, hemp.
– Leafy greens.
– Grass Fed animals (occasionally found here).
A NOTE ABOUT FAT CALORIES: Here, the main concern should be achieving a good balance of the high fat in plant-based Omega-3s with other vital nutrients like protein.
Adding Omega-3s to Your Diet
The human body – regardless of gender or age – cannot make Omega-3s on its own. It needs the help of your diet and/or supplements to take in these essential fatty acids. But how much the body needs does depend on age and pregnancy (when you are taking in these nutrients for two). For some simple ways to add omega-3s to your diet make sure you check out these tips.
Here are some intake guidelines that can serve as a resource:
– Child. One to three grams of EPA/DHA daily or eating fish twice per week.
– Adult. 700-1,000 mg of EPA; 200-500 mg of DHA daily or eating fish three times per week.
– Pregnant woman. It is best to consult with your ob-gyn to determine the best course of supplementation through diet and/or oils/capsules.
How Omega-3’s Help Improve Your Health
You will likely be amazed at all the ways Omega-3’s can help strengthen and improve your health as well as guard against future serious health issues.
For pregnant women, the baby depends on sufficient quantities of Omega-3s to develop spine and brain properly.
For children, supplementation through diet or other means can reduce symptoms of ADHD, heal short bowel syndrome, improve visual and neurological health, reduce inflammation, reduce symptoms of asthma and ease mood disorders.
For adults, Omega-3s can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, Crohn’s disease, dementia and onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is always wise to consult your family physician before beginning a course of diet adjustment or supplementation through other means.
A NOTE ABOUT BLEEDING: If you are on medication that thins the blood or have a blood disorder, be sure to talk with your doctor first before increasing your Omega-3 levels.
By adding in Omega-3s in the proper amounts to your diet, you create a baseline for your physical and mental health that will support you and your family throughout life.
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