In a diet crazed culture that is often influenced by Parisian catwalks and a high fashion world obsessed with unnatural body image, the idea of healthy fat is an oxymoron. But, not only are some fats healthy, but they are necessary for good function in the human body. Omega-3 fatty acids, a class of polyunsaturated fats, are a type of “good fats” which are essential to good health and development.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Often called brain food for their effect on better cognitive function, omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally produced by the body and must be acquired through diet and/or supplementation.
Unlike saturated fats, such as the fat that is found in butter, cream, eggs and red meat, which are known to contribute to heart disease, clogged arteries and high cholesterol, omega-3s contribute to good overall cardiac health by improving the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in your blood, and lowering the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL.)
Omega-3 fatty acids provide building blocks for cellular membranes in the body and are a source of energy storage for your muscles, heart and other vital organs. So potent are fatty acids in providing energy, that pound for pound, the body can metabolize more energy from one molecule of fat than of carbohydrates or protein.
Why You Need Them
Highly concentrated in brain tissue, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for good cognitive function, particularly as it pertains to short-term memory. Omega-3s improve the texture of hair and skin, improve circulation and have also been shown to increase bone density in both men and women.
Known as a natural anti-inflammatory, omega-3s are helpful in reducing the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and are helpful in reducing intestinal inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
In the field of anti-aging, omega-3s have shown promise in potentially preventing early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other research also suggests that omega-3s are helpful in treating ADD, ADHD and impulsive personality symptoms, along with helping to relieve the symptoms of depression.
Research continues to study the role omega-3s play in possible breast, colon and prostate cancer prevention, and in stabilizing blood sugar in diabetes.
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in abundance in fatty fish. Salmon, sardines, albacore (a type of tuna), trout, herring and catfish are all excellent sources of omega-3s, along with nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pecans and macadamia nuts.
Flaxseed and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts are also good sources as well.
How Much Do You Need?
For a healthy adult, two servings of fatty fish are recommended per week. But, if you are trying to address specific health issues by supplementing with omega-3s, it is important to consult your physician or nutritionist before doing so.
Given that there are no known side-effects or problems with consuming supplements of omega-3s, it is generally acceptable for adults to take anywhere from 800 to 1000mgs per day.
As always, be wise as it pertains to your health. Inform yourself and educate yourself thoroughly before increasing any vitamin or mineral in your diet.
National Institute of Health.gov
Harvard Medical School.edu
University of Maryland Medical Center.edu