Over the last decade there has been a revolution in terms of eating organic, understanding what goes into our food, and an increase in the general public’s concern over getting in the proper nutrients for a healthy life. With all the information being dished out online, on television, and in magazines, it can be disorienting to distinguish between the latest diet trends and what you should really be concerned about!
The average American diet leans more towards the consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids – present in vegetable oils – and whilst these are essential for a healthy body, can also cause inflammation. This inflammation can be balanced out with the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids. Find out what Omega-3 is, why you should be consuming it, and some easy ways to get more Omega-3 into your diet.
What is Omega-3?
To describe them in their simplest form, Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are necessary for a healthy and balanced diet. You may have heard the term saturated fats tossed around and probably associate them with being bad fats that are especially prevalent in fried and unhealthy foods.
Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated, meaning that there are multiple areas in its chemical structure in which there are double bonds which makes the fats more fluid and gives you protection from cardiovascular disease and other health benefits. While the word fat has a bad stigma these days, consuming omega-3 and other essential fatty acids is necessary for a healthy diet since the body cannot synthesize it itself.
A basic rule of thumb is to increase the amounts of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and decrease the amount of saturated fats you eat. Easy, right?
What does Omega-3 do?
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in maintaining your health in the following ways:
✓ Helps lower cholesterol, which can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
✓ Reduces inflammation by inhibiting the enzyme that causes prostaglandins to be produced and cause inflammation. This is similar (natural) process to how aspirin works!
✓ Helps lower your blood triglyceride levels, which reduces your risk of stroke and heart disease.
✓ Helps reduce depression. In fact, a 2014 Military Medicine study showed that in 5 out of 6 clinical trials in which Omega-3 was given, the symptoms of depression in participants was reduced by about 50%, even when the subjects were already being treated by antidepressants.
✓ Help reduce pain from menstrual cycles.
✓ Helps maintain bone health by improving calcium levels.
How can I get more Omega-3 in my diet?
While our bodies can’t make Omega-3 themselves, it can luckily be found in a variety of sources, including vegetarian and vegan options. For those who eat meat, one of the best sources can be found in fish, particularly salmon and salmon oil. If you’re not a huge salmon fan, you can also get your Omega-3 fix through oysters, tuna, trout, mackerel, grass-fed beef, and eggs from Omega-3 supplemented hens. If you prefer not to eat meat for ethical or dietary reasons, you can find Omega-3 in flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, spinach, and a variety of other plant-based sources.