The Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
by Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD
Last Updated: January 11, 2021
The New Year is upon us, and many may consider making some health-related changes to their personalized nutrition, lifestyle, or general well-being. If you’re interested in taking your nutrition to the next level, adding a considerable amount of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet is important to keep top of mind as research has shown that these healthy fats have some positive health benefits, supporting your brain, heart, and skin health.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat the body can’t make on its own, and it’s an essential fat that is needed for several functions in the body. We get these fatty acids from the foods we eat and from dietary supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids, which include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3s are an important part of the membranes that surround all cells in our body. DHA levels are especially high in the eye and brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in plants and marine life.
What foods provide omega-3s?
These fatty acids are found naturally in some foods as fortified in others. There are plant-based options for those who are allergic to fish or who don’t eat fish. You can ensure you’re getting enough of this essential fat by eating a variety of the following foods:
- Fish and other seafood, particularly fatty fish, such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, lake trout, anchovies and sardines.
- Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
- Fortified eggs labeled “high in omega-3”.
- Vegetable-based oils, like flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
- Fortified yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of seafood as a part of a healthy eating pattern as it helps protect your heart. For those with heart disease, AHA recommends eating ~1 gram of EPA plus DHA for those with heart disease, preferably from oily fish, but supplements can be an option under a healthcare provider’s guidance. The benefits and risks of eating fish will vary depending on a person’s stage of life. There are specific recommendations for children, pregnant women, and older adults. More information can be obtained by making an appointment with a Kroger Health Dietitian.
How can omega-3 fatty acids help improve my health?
Research shows that these fatty acids can improve your cardiovascular health. More research specifically involves EPA and DHA, but ALA is important in supporting your health, too.
Some benefits include:
- Lowering triglyceride levels by slowing the rate they form in the liver. High levels of triglycerides in the blood increase the risk of heart disease.
- Keeping the lining of arteries smooth and free from damage that can lead to thick, hard arteries.
- Reduced risk of blood clots as omega-3s help prevent platelets from clumping together.
As a general rule of thumb, individuals should aim to get most of their nutrients from food. Refer to the dietary guidelines for more information on specifically which nutrients to include in your diet. Following the MyPlate eating method may help build a healthy eating pattern that can help you live your healthiest life.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.