Even though you want to minimize the intake of fat, omega-3 fatty acids need to be a part of your diet. DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA(eicosapentaenoic acid), found in specific types of fish and plant-based products, along with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from seeds and nuts, are essential for your body. Omega 3 fatty acids fall under the polyunsaturated fatty acids category, as it has more than one double bond in its molecular structure.
5 Omega 3 Health Benefits
Omega 3 fatty acids can help the body and the brain in several ways. We take a look at 5 incredible benefits of these fatty acids.
1. Improves sleep
Sleep has an important role to play in your physical health, as it helps in the repairing and healing your blood vessels and heart. It balances out your hormones, improves reaction to insulin, reduces the chances of becoming obese, and strengthens your immunity system.
According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. At the same time, the level of melatonin, a hormone which helps you sleep, will be high, if you consume ample amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. Studies also show that consuming these fatty acids will improve the quality and length of your sleep.
2. Decreases inflammation
Their anti-inflammatory properties make the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids all the more important. The vast majority of diseases result in inflammation, which impacts your body’s ability to fight these illnesses. By adding omega 3 fatty acids to your diet, your body gets the chance to combat these diseases.
Also, there was another study, which shows that long-chain omega 3 fatty acids have the potential to reduce inflammation in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. The disease was due to the accumulation of fat, which causes inflammation in the liver.
3. Great for skin
For your skin to be soft, wrinkle-free, and supple, it is important for the cell membranes to be healthy. As DHA is responsible for keeping them in good condition, consuming omega 3 fatty acids has a positive impact on your skin. EPA, a long-chain omega 3 fatty acid, manages the production of oil in your skin. At the same time, it also slows down the effects of ageing, keeping your skin radiant for a longer time.
4. Improves joint and bone health
Older adults may have to deal with osteoporosis, a problem which increases the frequency of suffering from fractures. Scientific research has been able to show that consuming essential fatty acids has a positive impact, as your body can absorb large quantities of calcium from your gut. It also improves bone collagen synthesis and the strength of your bones. Omega 3 fatty acids help patients suffering from arthritis to deal with this disease, as it decreases inflammation. It helps in increasing the patient’s grip strength while alleviating joint pain.
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
One of the major reasons why omega 3 has grown in popularity among the public is due to its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers found that communities which consume fish as a part of their daily diet, have lower chances of suffering from heart diseases. It decreases triglycerides levels, a type of fat, which causes strokes and heart attacks.
It helps in increasing the amounts of good cholesterol levels (HDL) in your body, prevents plaque from building up in the arteries, and stops blood clots. There was a preliminary study, where young adults who were dealing with obesity, had to consume salmon three times every week. Within eight weeks, the participants of the study had lower levels of blood pressure.
Omega 3 Rich Foods
Here are eight foods you can add to your diet, to ensure your body gets ample amounts of omega 3 fatty acids:
1. Canola oil
Out of all the vegetable oils you use for cooking, none match the level of omega 3 fatty acids in canola oil. From one tablespoon of canola oil, you get 1,300 mg of the fatty acid. Hence, it is an ideal ingredient to cook your food. Chefs love using canola oil for dishes, due to its high smoke point. It is the temperature when the oil loses its frying quality and starts to produce smoke. Due to this reason, you can use this oil for stir-frying, baking, and cooking, without worrying about losing its nutrient value.
2. Chia seeds
If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, adding chia seeds to your diet is a must. It comes with a myriad of nutrients. For example, one spoon of chia seeds will give you dietary fibers, magnesium, protein, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, vitamin A, and protein. From a single(one ounce) serving of chia seeds, you get 4915 mg of omega 3 fatty acids. This makes it one of the richest plant-based sources.
Chia seeds are extremely versatile, giving you the luxury of adding it to a variety of dishes. You can soak them overnight in water, and have it in the morning to kickstart your day. Combine it with smoothies, salads, bread, and jam, to ensure they are full of nutrients.
3. Cod liver oil
If you take supplements to ensure your body gets all the vital nutrients, you must add cod liver oil to your list. The oil gets extracted from the liver of codfish, before getting stored in capsules or other forms. Every serving of cod liver oil will give you 2664 mg of omega 3 fatty acids.
At the same time, you get 338% and 270% of the daily requirement for vitamin D and vitamin A respectively. Make sure that you only have a single tablespoon of this supplement, as excessive amounts vitamin A is not good for your body.
Flaxseed or flaxseed oil is one of the few sources of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, which provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). You will find these seeds in milled or grounded form in the supermarket. You should consume flaxseed oil on a regular basis, as an omega 3 fatty acid supplement.
A single serving of flaxseeds can give you 2338 mg of omega 3 fatty acids while flaxseed oil provides 7196 mg. At the same time, you get other nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E, and fiber. Unlike other plant seeds which produce oil, the ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 is quite high in flaxseeds.
These small, delicious fatty fish are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids. You can have them for breakfast by smoking and eating them as a whole for breakfast. 100 grams of mackerel also gives you twice the amount of vitamin B12 that your body needs. It also accounts for your body’s daily nutritional selenium requirement. You can make a gravy or fry this fish, allowing you to enjoy them in a variety of dishes.
Another food which is rich in a variety of nutrients is salmon. It gives you 1.1 to 1.9 g of omega 3 fatty acids with every 3-ounce serving. It also has top-grade protein, B-vitamins, selenium, potassium, and magnesium.
There are numerous health benefits when you consume salmon on a regular basis. For instance, studies were able to show that people who eat salmon, have a lower chance of suffering from diseases such as depression, dementia, and heart disease.
If you are looking for a delicious way to get omega 3 fatty acids in your body, include sardines in your diet. You will find these small fish in jars, tins, or as a whole in the supermarket. Most people consume sardines as a snack or starter in restaurants.
If you eat sardines as a whole, you get all the nutrients your body needs to remain healthy such as vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D. A single cup should give you 2205 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, while 100 grams provide 1480 mg.
Walnuts make a great snack, as they are full of fire and nutritious at the same time. They provide large quantities of vitamin E, manganese, copper, and other vital plant compounds to your body. Make sure that you consume walnuts with their skin, as this layer has a large concentration of phenol antioxidants.
A single serving (which is 28 grams) or seven walnuts will give you 2542 mg of omega 3 fatty acids. Instead of using olive oil for stir-frying or cooking vegetables, use walnut oil. The amount of omega 3 fatty acids it provides is 10 times higher.
Soybeans too contain a good amount of omega-3. They are also a great source of fiber and protein. They also contain a number of other nutrients, such as riboflavin, folate, vitamin K, magnesium and potassium.
That said, it should be noted that soybeans are also rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Studies suggest that eating too much omega-6 may cause inflammation.
10. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans contain about 0.1 g of ALA in half a cup. They are commonly consumed dish that can be added to curries or stews, eaten with rice.
11. Omega 3 Fortified Foods
Apart from the foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, there are foods that are fortified with it. This can be seen with certain brands of eggs, juices, milk and yogurt.
Certain kinds of bread and pasta are also known to have omega-3 added to them.
People may struggle to meet their daily omega-3 requirement or may experience high levels of inflammation. In such cases, people may benefit from consuming supplements of omega-3 fatty acids.
Some of the more popular omega-3 supplements are highlighted below:
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is the most commonly consumed supplement of omega-3. It also offers the highest available dose of the fatty acid. Fish oil supplements include both DHA and EPA.
2. Krill Oil
Krill oil is another seafood oil, that is also rich in EPA and DHA.
3. Algae Oil
People following a vegetarian, or a vegan, diet can also consume algae oil as an excellent source of omega-3. Since they contain a relatively lower dose than most fish oils, people would need to take a higher amount of it.
While some brands of algae oil may include only DHA, it is ideal to use a brand that contains both EPA and DHA.
4. ALA Supplements
Most seed supplements contain only the plant-based omega-3 ALA. This, on its own, is not sufficient. The seeds also have omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess, can cause inflammation. Therefore, these supplements do not contribute to a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the body. Although ALA supplements are not a supplement for fish or algae oil, they can make for a good additional supplement to have in the diet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: Ideally, one should turn to fatty fish like hilsa, ribbon fish, Indian sardine, Indian oyster, Indian river shad, and mackerel for their dose of DHA Omega 3. You could also have DHA enriched eggs, and cod liver oil supplements in their place.
A: If you are vegetarian and wish to consume more omega 3 fatty acids, vegetable oils such as soyabean and canola oil are good sources. You could also eat nuts and seeds like almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, or even seaweeds and algae.
A: Yes, eggs are a natural source of omega 3. However, if you choose to buy DHA enriched eggs, they contain 3 times as much of the fatty acid as conventional eggs.
A: It is best to eat a variety of natural and enriched foods to get sufficient omega 3. If that is not enough, talk to your doctor about how you can choose a supplement that works best for you.
Both have important roles to play in our body but the fact is that most of us are consuming too little omega 3 and way too much omega 6. The ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should not exceed 5:1.
There are other foods, which provide adequate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. For example, you can eat hemp seeds, Brussels sprouts, spinach, grass-fed meat, and dairy products, give you this nutrient. Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important for your well-being. Consume these foods twice every week to ensure your body gets sufficient amounts of these nutrients.