Omega-3 fatty acid
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them. You have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils.
Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week.
The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
When it comes to fat, there’s one type you don’t want to cut back on: omega-3 fatty acids. Two crucial ones — EPA and DHA — are primarily found in certain fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. Not only does your body need these fatty acids to function, but also they deliver some big health benefits.
Types of Omega-3 Fats
Marine animals such as fish and krill provide eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are mostly promoted for their protective effects on your heart. Flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, on the other hand, offer alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). You would want to choose an animal-based variety – most of the cellular health benefits linked to omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based EPA and DHA, not the plant-based ALA.
Furthermore, ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in your body at a very low ratio. What this means is that even if you consume large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert a relatively small amount into EPA and DHA, and only when there are sufficient enzymes.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is a good source of protein and, unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death.
Dangers of an Omega-3 Deficiency
Omega-3 foods are believed to help lower the risk for heart disease due to their inflammation-reducing abilities. They also are needed for proper neurological function, cell membrane maintenance, mood regulation and hormone production.
This is the reason omega-3 foods are known as “good fat” sources, the kinds that provide polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS) known as alpha-linolenic acids. While most consume enough of the other kinds of essential fatty acids known as omega-6s (found in modified cooking oils like canola, sunflower and safflower oil, plus some nuts), most people are low in omega-3s and can afford to up their intake of omega-3 foods.