Are you missing out on the powerful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? As registered dietitians, clients often come to us asking questions about certain nutrients and where to get them.
Omega-3 is so important in your diet because it aids in reducing inflammation, enhances recovery, and supports heart health, brain function, and overall health.
Many Americans aren’t getting enough omega-3 fatty acids through diet alone. Additionally, sorting through the different types and where to get them can be confusing.
While omega-3 supplements are growing in popularity, how do you know if they are right for you? We answer that and more below.
Let’s dive in!
Looking for more evidence-based nutrition content? If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my blog on how much protein you really need next!
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Confused about omega-3 fatty acids? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Join us as we dive into an explanation of what they are and the three different types.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have various health benefits. They’re considered essential, which means that you can only get them by consuming them in your diet; your body can’t make them on its own.
There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is unique because your body can partially convert ALA into the other two forms of omega 3s: EPA and DHA. It’s mainly found in plant sources such as chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is more commonly found in animal sources such as fatty fish. It’s well known for being anti-inflammatory and supporting cardiovascular health.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is again found in fatty fish. It’s known for supporting brain function.
You might be wondering “what’s the best type?” but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s important to get a good balance of all 3 types of omega-3s.
The best way to get omega 3s is through the diet, but supplementing can be helpful too. We’ll talk about when that’s the case later in the article.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Ready to optimize your well-being from the inside out? Discover the wide range of health benefits and start feeling your best:
Heart and cardiovascular health
Regular consumption of omega 3s, particularly DHA and EPA, can lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, reduce triglyceride levels, and prevent the formation of blood clots.
The relationship between omega-3s and heart health has been studied extensively. It has been shown to be associated with a reduced risk of:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
Brain function and cognitive benefits
DHA is an important building block for the brain. It’s essential for the development and function of the brain, especially during early childhood and pregnancy.
Adequate intake of DHA has been shown to improve:
- Cognitive performance
- Age-related cognitive decline
Inflammation and recovery
Omega-3s are great for recovery from physical activity! They help the body’s inflammatory response to exercise, which can lead to a shorter recovery time and quicker muscle repair.
They also help with chronic inflammation and can help prevent other chronic conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers
- Autoimmune conditions
They are especially important for athletes. If you’re into strength training or endurance exercise, omega-3s can help you recover so much quicker!
Another helpful supplement for athletic recovery is collagen powder. Make sure to check out my full article on collagen supplementation here!
The benefits discussed above are just a small portion of the amazing benefits these essential fatty acids provide. Keep reading to see how you can get them through your diet!
Dietary Sources of Omega-3
After reading this article, I hope you are more convinced that you should be prioritizing your omega-3 fatty acids. Now let’s talk about the best ways to get them.
Here are the most common sources of omega-3s:
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, tuna
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Omega-3 fortified foods: some eggs, milk, or bread
As you can see, there aren’t a ton of dietary sources which can make it difficult. The easiest way to get a high amount of omega-3s is through fatty fish and nuts/seeds.
Tips for incorporating these foods into your diet:
- Walnuts: Use walnuts as a simple afternoon snack. They’re great to grab and go and won’t make a mess!
- Fortified products: Choose eggs, milk, yogurt, or bread that are fortified with omega-3s for an extra boost.
- Fatty fish: Aim to include fatty fish in your meals twice a week. Pair with your favorite vegetable, whole grains, or salad.
- Chia or flax seeds: Blend them into your smoothies or sprinkle on your oatmeal or cereal.
By incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet, you’ll be supporting your overall health and on your way to feeling your best!
Should You Take Omega-3 Supplements?
You might be wondering if you should be supplementing omega-3 fatty acids or if it’s good to take omega-3 supplements every day.
I’ll start by saying that when it comes to supplements, food should come first, and you should always consult with a dietitian or healthcare professional before taking any new supplements. This is my golden rule!
However, there may be some cases when supplementing with omega-3 may be beneficial.
Limited fish consumption
If you’re vegetarian/vegan or don’t enjoy consuming fish, a supplement may be a good idea for you.
Specific health conditions
Those with cardiovascular health issues, inflammatory conditions, or cognitive decline may also benefit from a supplement.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
Because omega-3s are essential for fetal brain development, supplementation may be recommended.
If you are an athlete and you find you’re unable to meet the omega-3 recommendations through diet alone, a supplement can help to get those muscle repair and growth benefits.
Again, it’s important to never supplement blindly and always talk with a healthcare provider like myself before choosing to supplement.
All in all, omega-3 fatty acids are great for overall health. Here are a few key takeaways from this article:
- There are three essential types of omega-3s: ALA, DHA, and EPA.
- Health benefits include heart health, inflammation reduction, cognitive function, and overall health.
- Dietary sources are mainly fatty fish and some nuts and seeds.
- Supplementation can be beneficial in certain circumstances, but it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.
Are you looking for long-term, sustainable solutions for your health goals? Are you tired of feeling restricted with your food choices and like you must “miss out” on life to achieve these goals?
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