Omega 3 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats that we require to stay healthy – specifically for our heart health.
There are different types of omega 3s, which can be found in different foods.
Omega 3 is often referred to as “healthy” or “good fats”. Those from countries such as Greenland and Japan, as well as Mediterranean countries, often demonstrate lower risk of heart disease due to diets rich in omega 3’s when compared to those in other western countries who typically don’t consume as much in the diet.
There has been a lot of research into omega 3 fats, particularly oily fish, and how they can improve heart health and consequently reduce the risk of heart disease. It has been found that the omega 3 fats EPA and DHA can help protect the heart and blood vessels from disease, helping to:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
There is good evidence that omega 3 fats can improve symptoms of arthritis. Benefits include reduced joint swelling and pain, shorter duration of morning stiffness and reduced need for anti-inflammatory drugs to control symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive function
Because DHA is an essential component of cellular membranes in the brain, it is believed that omega 3 might help maintain and support brain function and therefore result in a reduction in cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. However, evidence on this has been mixed so more research needs to be done.
It is recommended that you try to get your nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements. However, if you don’t eat fish, a fish oil supplement containing 500 mg of EPA and DHA combined, with lower levels of vitamin A (when pregnant or breastfeeding avoid vitamin A altogether), is recommended. You should consult with your GP first, as they can advise specific recommendations, especially if you are taking a blood thinning medicine. The omega 3 supplement can either be from a marine fish source or, if you are vegetarian and fish is off the table, you can also get an algae-based supplement.
Some foods are also fortified with omega 3, such as eggs, milks, bread, yogurt and some fat spreads. So, if your diet doesn’t include fish, you just need to be mindful and discover different sources. Be sure to check the labels for the amount and kind of omega 3; its EPA and DHA that are most important for our heart health.
Our heart health is important, so making sure we have adequate omega 3 consumption can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. Make sure you and your family are including them in your diets to reap the health benefits they provide.