Updated: June 4, 2015
Omega 3 Fatty Acids:You hear about them all the time - Omega 3 Fatty Acids, but what are they and why are they good for you. To begin with, the human body does not make these types of fatty acids. You must consume them either in foods or supplement form. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in late 2004 came out with a statement that said both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Don't go out and consume too much of the Omega 3 fatty acids as this can increase your risk of bleeding. Taken in the right dosage, EPA and DHA fatty acids have many health benefits that we will go into down below. Fish oil and plant/nut oils are where you will find the best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon is a popular choice for many of us along with cooking with olive or canola oil. I personally enjoy eating nuts, so I make it a point to consume more walnuts, pecan, or hazelnuts. If you look closely at the labels in your grocery store, you will see some foods are now fortified with Omega 3's - orange juice, eggs, pizza, yogurt, milk and infant formula . If you are taking supplements (hopefully under your doctors guidance) make sure you watch closely what foods you are buying in the store to verify the levels of Omega 3's you are taking in each day as too high a dosage can be harmful.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take 1 pill a day to help stave off things like heart attacks and high blood pressure. Scientists are still studying the beneficial effects of Omega 3's, but so far the evidence is pretty solid in helping many diseases and help problems. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America and certainly it would be nice to reduce those numbers each year by making people aware of the benefits of taking Omega 3 fatty acids. Including them in your diet is the easiest way to incorporate them into your system, but some people don't like fish and nuts, so perhaps taking a daily supplement is the best alternative. My mother has high blood pressure and HDL cholesterol levels that should be higher so she takes a fish oil supplement each day to try and help. You will find articles all over the Internet and in magazines telling you how great Omega 3's are, but there is still much testing that needs to be done since some of the claims are still unproven. Some of the more trusted sites on the Internet like Mayoclinic.com and Nih.gov (National Institutes of Health) make compelling articles that stand behind the increased intake of Omega 3 fatty acids for those with high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels in the blood, and anyone who has a history of heart disease in their family. Both sites have charts with letter grades from A-D on how well the Omega 3's will help each condition based on scientific evidence. As you will learn below, there are many areas of your overall mental and physical health in which the Omega 3 fatty acids can help. We have listed the foods that experts say offer the best sources of Omega 3's in your daily diet.
- Salmon, Tuna, White Fish, Anchovies, Sardines
- Walnuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts
- Pinto beans
- Canola, flaxseed, soybean, and olive oils
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:There are many proven benefits related to the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Some are more beneficial than others. The three areas that aren't in dispute are the ability of Omega-3's to reduce blood pressue, lower blood triglyceride levels, and slow the buildup of atheroslerotic plaques in your arteries. If you go to the Mayoclinic site HERE you will see all the scientific evidence put forth on just how much Omega-3's help in a variety of areas including infant eye and brain development, inflammation control with athritis, asthma, bipolar disorder, depression and more. The list goes into what the evidence currently shows for each issue and how strong the scientific evidence is. I recently saw an article done by the new Consumer Reports health magazine and it appears that we are just beginning to understand the health benefits involved with the EPA and DHA fatty acids found in Omega 3's.
How much should I consumer?:The American Heart Association (AMA) has set guidelines on how much Omega 3 fatty acids Americans (adults who are aged 18 and older) should consume each day. Don't be confused with Omega 6 fatty acids which come most from vegetable oils and are not good for you. Most people should try to reduce their Omega 6 fatty acid intake and increase their Omega 3's. There are no current guideslines for children under the age of 18.
- Those with heart disease should consume 1 gram of DHA and EPA fatty acids each day
- Those without heart disease should have at least 2 servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, etc) each week