Omega-3 fatty acids – good for your body and mind
We have known for a long time that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human bodies to function properly and required throughout or lifetime. Scientists continue to study omega-3s to understand how they affect health. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, people who eat fish and other seafood have a lower risk of several chronic diseases – what is not clear is whether the benefit is from eating these foods or from the omega-3s they contain. The bullets below show the beneficial effects of consuming foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat that the human body cannot make on its own - they are called essential because we need them to survive. We get the omega-3 fatty acids we need from the foods we eat. Fish contain two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Plants contain a form of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic (ALA). DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is crucial to brain function, vision, and the regulation of inflammatory phenomena.
The American Heart Association recommends that people without a history of heart disease should eat at least two four-ounce servings of fish each week. In addition to benefitting heart health, the twice per week seafood recommendation appears across the different studies (brain, cancer, arthritis, skin). Omega-3 fatty acids are a key ingredient in the popular Mediterranean diet. In fact, omega-3s appear to be a large part of the favorite diets rated in U.S. News. The Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) offers guidelines for adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids for various life stages.
Food vs. supplements
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that we should get most of our nutrients from foods that contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other substances that benefit health. Sometimes fortified foods and dietary supplements may provide nutrients when you don’t get enough from food. The Mayo Clinic, in a myth-busting article, also says that it’s better to get omega-3 fatty acids from your diet, rather than from a bottle of supplements.
The webpage Seafood Health Facts: Making smart choices (a joint project by the Universities of Oregon State, Cornell, Delaware, Rhode Island, Florida, and California and the Community Seafood Initiative) has a list of the omega-3 content of frequently consumed seafood products. Another useful website is the US Department of Agriculture FoodData Central, where you can search the nutritional values of a large variety of foods.
Good omega-3-rich fish options include salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, cod, herring, trout, and light tuna. Sizzlefish offers wild Alaska King Salmon, wild Alaska coho salmon, wild Alaska sockeye salmon, Copper River king salmon and many other types of wild caught fish and seafood. While fatty fish like salmon are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, all fish have some level of omega-3s and other vitamins and minerals that are essential nutrients for keeping hearts and brains healthy and Sizzlefish has put together combinations of fish high in omega-3s.
Omega-3 dietary supplements may interact with the medications you take. For example, high doses of omega-3s may cause bleeding problems when taken with warfarin (Coumadin®) or other anticoagulant medicines.
Fish is the best food source of omega-3 fatty acids, but several plants contain ALA. This is not as rich of a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but some studies show that ALA can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
As always, you should talk with your health care provider about any complementary health approaches you use (including fish oil supplements).
This article is meant only to be educational.
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