Do you get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet? The importance of omega-3s cannot be emphasized enough. Your body needs them. Your brain needs them. But do you know what they are and how they benefit you? Do you know the best ways to consume them in order to reap maximum benefits?
Omega-3 deficiency runs rampant in the American diet, and this is a problem, given that these fatty acids are crucial for optimal health and well-being. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, and learn how they can help you create better health and well-being for yourself and your family.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3s are a kind of unsaturated fatty acid. There are many varieties, but the four primary omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). You can find each of these in different foods and supplements. It’s really good to eat all varieties to ensure you’re getting the optimal benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Which foods and supplements contain DHA, ETA, EPA, and ALA omega-3 fatty acids?
Foods rich in DHA are oily, fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, tuna, and halibut. Certain algaes contain DHA, as do fish oil, krill oil, and algae oil. A study of toddlers who had different fatty acid compositions in their diets found that DHA deficiency is linked to an increased risk of ADHD and other learning disabilities. It’s important that young children consume DHA to ensure healthy growth and development, especially during their first year of life.
ETA is less common, but you still need it — especially as an anti-inflammatory. This omega-3 is found in green lipped mussel and roe oil. If these sound too exotic for your tastes, you’ll want take a supplement with ETA.
Like DHA, EPA is also found in fatty, oily fish, the oils of certain algaes, and krill oil. Like DHA, you need a lot of it to stay healthy.
ALA is the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. It’s found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens.
Dangers of omega-3 deficiency
Wondering what happens if you don’t get your omega-3s? For starters, your body is more likely to suffer from inflammation, which leads to many disease processes. You’re also at greater risk for heart disease and high cholesterol. Digestive disorders sometimes develop when you’re deficient in these essential fatty acids, as do allergies, arthritis, and other joint issues. Your bones are more likely to lose their strength and integrity, and your mental health may be compromised. The point is, you need these fatty acids if you want a healthy dose of disease prevention and greater well-being — physically and mentally.
Top benefits of omega-fatty acids
The benefits of omega 3s are off the charts. To get a better idea of just how crucial they are for your health, let’s take a look at their top benefits. It’s important to understand exactly what they do for you, in order to motivate you to make the dietary changes necessary.
Reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular events
Heart disease is the number-one killer in America. Our standard American diet does very little to support heart health. One of the reasons for this is the low amount of omega 3s in our typical daily diet. Your heart needs proper amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to function properly. Even the American Heart Association advises us to eat at least 3 ½ ounces of fatty fish every week.
EPA and DHA are the most crucial fatty acids to consume if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease. And a 2017 study demonstrates how you can reduce your risk for any cardiovascular event by simply getting enough omega-3s in your diet.
Support mental health
DHA is food for your brain. We now know that your brain’s tissue contains the most DHA in all of your body. This means DHA is essential for brain health. Your memory performance depends upon adequate amounts of DHA in the brain. If your brain needs to heal from a trauma, DHA speeds healing and recovery. What’s more, DHA prevents brain inflammation and is essential for optimal eyesight.
DHA deficiencies are linked to cognitive problems and increased Alzheimer’s risk. This is important, because at this time, we have no medical cures for dementia and Alzheimer’s. As we get older, we naturally make less DHA in the body. This means we need to make a real effort to eat more DHA-rich foods and supplements. Vegan and vegetarian diets seriously lack DHA. If you fall within one of these categories, you must supplement with DHA-rich algaes and oils.
Improve depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder
Much evidence reveals a correlation between omega-3 deficiency and depression and anxiety. In fact, studies suggest that supplementing with omega-3s can be every bit as effective as conventional depression medication. Studies have found that children with ADHD have lower blood concentrations of fatty acids. Furthermore, studies suggest that bipolar disorder may be helped with omega-3 supplementation.
Because omega-3 supplements come with little or no side effects, unlike pharmaceutical medications, it’s worth giving high-quality omega-3 supplements a shot for all these mental health conditions.
Improve joint and bone health
Our bones and joints need omega-3s to remain strong as we age. If you’re at risk of osteoarthritis, you’ll definitely want to supplement with a high-quality, wild fish oil supplement. Another benefit of omega-3 fatty acids when it comes to bones and joints is that it helps boost calcium in your bones, which is necessary for overall bone and joint health.
Promote a healthy inflammatory response
We now know that chronic inflammation is at the root of all serious diseases. Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce systemic inflammation in the body. Another study shows that green-lipped mussels can improve signs of inflammation, including symptoms of arthritis. Omega-3s naturally work to reduce systemic inflammation throughout the body by inhibiting a particular enzyme known to cause inflammation.
Reduce wrinkles and fine lines
Do you want beautiful, supple skin? Eating adequate amounts of these fatty acids will help you have it! EPA is known to improve the appearance of skin by reducing wrinkles and fine lines. It also helps get rid of acne. DHA supports the integrity of your cell membrane. This contributes to overall youthful-looking skin.
Manage and prevent autoimmune diseases
If you, or someone you know suffers from an autoimmune disease, you know just how debilitating these conditions can be. Autoimmune diseases happen when the body turns on itself. The immune system thinks healthy cells are actually bad, and attacks these cells as a result.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and ulcerative colitis, to name a few. If you want to prevent autoimmune diseases from happening in the first place, or improve one that’s already taken hold, you’ll want to consume more fatty fish and algae, or fatty fish oils and algae oil.
Studies reveal a promising connection between omega-3 fatty acid intake and autoimmune disease prevention and reversal. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect against both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The key is that children need to consume adequate amounts of omega-3s during their first year of life to reap the maximum benefits for type 1 diabetes prevention.
It seems these days that nearly every natural remedy is touted as a cancer preventative, but there is scientific evidence that intake of omega-3-rich foods can lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
In addition, studies show a connection between omega-3 intake and breast and prostate cancer prevention. If you’re worried about pancreatic cancer, omega-3 fatty acids combined with turmeric may help induce the death of cancer cells.
Promote a healthy weight
No, you don’t need to cut fats from your diet, because not all fats are created equal. There are healthy fats and there are unhealthy fats. The good ones actually promote weight loss. And yes, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids fall into the category of good fats. Your body takes a long time to digest healthy fats, which means you stay fuller longer. Healthy fats also help your body maintain steady blood sugar levels, which is also necessary for weight loss.
In fact, studies show low-fat diets to be detrimental to weight loss. The human body needs good fats to function properly. One of those functions includes the maintenance of healthy weight. You need healthy fats, such as those found in coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, in order to lose weight and keep it off.
Another key to the weight loss equation has to do with stress hormones. When you’re chronically stressed out, it’s really difficult to lose weight. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol can disrupt the metabolism. One of the surprising benefits of omega-3s has to do with their ability to help balance hormones. And balanced hormones are necessary for maintaining your healthy weight over the long term.
Improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Yet another benefit of omega-3s in terms of weight loss has to do with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It wreaks havoc with efforts to lose weight.
Metabolic syndrome affects nearly 25% of Americans. If you have the syndrome, your chances of having a heart attack or stroke increase dramatically. Other symptoms include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excess belly fat. As you can see, it’s a recipe for weight gain. Studies show that omega-3s help improve risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, having positive effects on weight loss, blood pressure, and markers of inflammation.
Best foods to reap benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
Certain foods are better than others when it comes to omega-3 content, and some may be easier to find than others. To reap all the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll want to make sure you put the following foods on your grocery list:
- Grass-fed beef
- Free-range eggs
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
Only buy the highest-quality wild fish oil supplements
Because of the increasing popularity of omega-3 supplements, the market is overflowing with these pills, and not all of them are beneficial. The best supplements contain wild fish ingredients — not farmed ones, which often contain cancer-causing dioxins, endocrine-disrupting plastics, and coloring chemicals. Look for a supplement that contains wild fish, as well as the full spectrum of omega-3s. Your body needs all of them — DHA, EPA, ALA, and ETA.
Need help achieving your health and weight goals? At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight-loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!