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There's nothing fishy about omega-3 fatty acids

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Learn the 123s of omega-3s

Yeah, um, "fatty" and "acids." Not usually words you think of when you’re talking about stuff that’s good for you. Keep an open mind, though, because omega-3 fatty acids are the bomb when it comes to nutritional health benefits.

Grilled salmon

So the experts say omega-3 fatty acids are really good for you, but what the heck are they, you ask? Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. That means we need them to help our bodies to function properly but our bodies don't make them. Therefore, we need to get them from our diet.

Good things in 3s

If you're a fish lover, you're in luck because they're found mostly in fatty fish. Most freshwater fish have less omega-3 fatty acids than saltwater fish, but some freshwater fish, like trout, have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

If you don't like or eat fish, you're still in luck (although the omega-3s found in fish have greater benefits for you), as there are other options for finding omega-3s.

The three types of omega-3s and their sources include the following:

  • EPA and DHA – Food sources include anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), sardines, sturgeon, lake trout and tuna, as well as algae oils.
  • AHA (converted into omega-3 fatty acids in the body) – Food sources include walnuts, beans, leafy greens, flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil and soybean oil.

While it's best to get your omega-3s from food, you can also get them from supplements, but you shouldn't rely solely on supplements. The American Heart Association recommends that people without documented coronary heart disease eat two servings of oily fish per week. About one ounce of walnuts provides enough omega-3s to meet the daily recommended intake for men and women, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

To your health!

Studies show that omega-3s may help protect you from cardiovascular disease in some of the following ways:

  • Reduce the formation of blood clots
  • Inhibit plaque growth in your arteries
  • Decrease triglycerides (high blood triglycerides are associated with an increased risk for heart disease)
  • May increase your "good" cholesterol levels (which helps protect against cardiovascular disease) as well as lower your blood pressure
  • Provide anti-inflammatory properties (hardening of the arteries is believed to involve the body's inflammatory response)
  • Increase bone density in older adults with osteoporosis

As if you need more, there are other potential health benefits to omega-3s including reducing the risk of stroke, improving immune function and reducing pain and inflammation in arthritis sufferers.

Before you start a new diet or begin to add supplements to your routine, make sure you first discuss your options with your physician.

Some people may be concerned about the mercury in fish. For more information on the mercury content in fish, visit the US Department of Agriculture.

There's nothing fishy about it! Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health!

Sources include the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.

Try these tasty recipes for a source of omega-3s

Grilled tuna with olive tapenade
Horseradish-crusted salmon
Sardine appetizers
Winter salad with broccoli, walnuts and fruit
Herbed pasta with walnuts

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