There is a great deal of discussion today that praises the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, but many people do not know much about these products or why they are important. Omega-3s are a group of fats that include docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA and eicosapentaenic acid or EPA. ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in the body, but this conversion rate can be as low as 5 percent so it's important to focus your efforts on consuming the other two types of omega-3s as these are more efficient for the body's needs. There are no specific requirements for how much omega-3 you need to eat each day, but studies show that consuming 500-1000 mg of these acids each day can aid in preventing everything from diabetes to depression.
Top 5 Omega-3 Foods
- Fish: Fatty fish are a particularly common source for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh tuna, halibut, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, oysters and salmon are good choices to get these necessary ingredients.
- Dairy Products: Many dairy and similar products can now be purchased fortified with additional omega-3s. Keep a look out for yogurt, eggs, juices, milk, soy milk or margarines that have been altered to include higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to help you get your daily share.
- Grains and Nuts: Many grains have also been fortified to include omega-3s. Some other grains such as seed and nuts come with a high amount of these fats naturally. Look for flour tortillas, packaged pizzas, oatmeal, pasta, fours, crunch oats, cereals and breads that have had omega-3s added. Flaxseed, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds and walnuts can help you get more omega-3s naturally.
- Vegetables: Green, leafy vegetables tend to have high amounts of ALAs in them, along with fiber and antioxidants that are helpful in maintaining your overall health. Stock up on spinach, Brussels sprouts, watercress, parsley, mint and kale to reap these benefits.
- Oils: Some oils including walnut, flaxseed, rapeseed, soybean, mustard and cod liver oils are high in ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
For Babies, like products for adults, many products for babies have been altered to include higher amounts of DHA omega-3s. This has been found to help babies develop their cognitive abilities more effectively. Look for jars of baby food, baby cereal or infant formula that has taken this into account.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acid
- ADHD: Some studies have found that increasing a child's intake of fish oil can help reduce ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) symptoms. This research is not yet confirmed as there have not yet been any studies that used omega-3s as a primary treatment for this condition.
- Asthma: Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation which can lead to an asthma attack. Some studies have also indicated that taking these supplements can help improve lung function, but more research is necessary to confirm these results.
- Blood fat: Studies show that fish oil supplements and other sources of omega-3s can help to cut the triglyceride or blood fat levels in the body. DHA oils are particularly known for assisting with this process. High triglycerides increase your risk for suffering a heart attack, so it is essential to manage them accordingly.
- Depression: People who regularly eat foods with a high amount of omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression. Studies have also found that omega-3s improve the effectiveness of antidepressants the patient may be taking and reduce symptoms of conditions like bipolar disorder.
- Prenatal health: Making a point of increasing your intake of DHA and EPA oils can help improve the overall health of a pregnant woman and encourage proper development of their children. Neurological and visual development appears to be particularly enhanced by these products.
- Rheumatoid arthritis- Studies indicate that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduces stiffness and pain in the joints. These acids may also increase the effectiveness of any anti-inflammatory medications you are taking for your condition.
- Cardiovascular health: In addition to lowering the triglycerides, omega-3s appear to help improve overall cardiovascular health. Taking omega-3 supplements such as fish oil can help reduce arrhythmias. Many people are told to take these supplements after they have suffered a heart attack to help reduce their risk of having a second episode. Making a point of consuming fish with high omega-3 counts at least once a week also lowers the risk of suffering from a stroke.
- Other conditions: People have found that increasing their use of omega-3s can increase the fasting sugar in the body, making it easier for people with diabetes to manage their symptoms. Studies have also indicated that people who regularly consumed omega-3s were less likely to suffer from bone loss that could develop into osteoporosis. Other studies have found that these supplements improve the symptoms of lupus erythematosus, though they were not as helpful in assisting with lupus nephritis. Those that suffer from dermatitis have reported fewer difficulties after increasing their intake of omega-3s as well. Women have reported less menstrual pain when increasing their omega-3 intake. Omega-3s are also cited as being helpful in allowing people to avoid macular degeneration and colon cancer.