Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through foods you consume. Omega-3s may help lower your risk of heart disease. There are different types of omega-3s:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
EPA and DHA are mostly found in animal foods like fatty fish, and ALA is typically found in plant sources.
Omega 3 fatty acids have important roles in the body, including heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation.
How much Omega-3’s?
The Adequate Intakes (AI) includes:
- Birth to 6 months: 0.5g
- 7-12 months: 0.5g
- 1-3 years: 0.7g
- 4-8 years: 0.9g
- 9-50+ years: 1.1-1.6g
Too little Omega-3’s?
A deficiency of essential fatty acids (of omega-3s or omega-6s) may cause rough skin, brittle hair, and dermatitis.
Too much dietary Omega-3?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states consuming more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day may cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Some fish are high in mercury. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid these: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and albacore tuna.
How to consume omega-3’s
Seafood is a big source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as some vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and soy foods. Fish does contain EPA and DHA, but content varies widely, with fatty fish containing higher levels.
Some brands of eggs, yogurt, milk, and juices are fortified with omega-3’s.
Bring this shopping list the next time you go to the supermarket to ensure your kitchen is stocked with good omega 3 sources.
- Sea bass
- Chicken breast
- Ground beef
Grains and nuts
- Bread, whole wheat
- Chia seeds
- Peanut butter
- Kidney beans
Dairy and Juices
- Orange juice
- Yogurt, whole milk
- Brussels sprouts
- Cod liver
Omega-3 supplements may be beneficial in combating heart disease, but there has been no clear scientific evidence of the benefits of omega-3 supplements on heart disease risk. If you feel you don't consume enough foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, then you may still want to discuss an omega-3 supplement with your doctor.
The best benefit of omega-3 fatty acids
ALA needs to be converted into EPA and/or DHA and this conversion process is not efficient. For greatest heart health benefits, seek food sources high in EPA and DHA, such as fatty fish.
Significant research shows eating two 4-ounce servings of seafood per week reduces the risk of heart disease due to omega-3 fatty acids. The is especially connected to the consumption of foods rich in EPA and DHA.