With all the different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients out there, it can be hard to keep up with healthy eating. If you haven’t already, take a peek at A Quick Introduction to Omega-3 Fatty Acids to understand what omega-3 fatty acids are. If you have already gotten that far, read on to find out all about why omega-3’s should be a part of your daily diet!
The confirmed benefits of consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids are many. These include prevention of heart disease and stroke among healthy adults, decreased blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and the treatment of depression.
Some other potential benefits that are currently being studied:
- Lower risk of dementia in old age
- Reduced complications of pregnancy
- Decreased symptoms of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Decreased menstrual symptoms
- Improvement in symptoms from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Breast and prostate cancer prevention
So what is the best way to eat your omega-3’s each day? There are 2 dietary sources: fatty fish and plant-based foods.
Fatty fish include salmon*, light tuna*, catfish*, pollock*, cod*, sole*, tuna (albacore), anchovies, halibut, bluefish, herring, lake trout, mackerel, pompano, striped sea bass, and whitefish. A * indicates a lower-mercury fish.
Plant-based omega 3’s include soy (tofu, soybeans, soybean oil), flaxseeds/flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. While beneficial, these are not as well absorbed as fatty fish and do not contain as much DHA or EPA, two important types of omega-3 fat.
Everyone needs omega-3’s in their diet, but some people have different needs.
If you are . . .
- A healthy adult, you should consume 8 oz of fatty fish per week or 500 mg/day of EPA+DHA.
- A woman who is pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant, you can safely consume up to 12 oz of low-mercury fatty fish per week, or 750 mg/day of EPA+DHA.
- An adult with heart disease, you should consume 13-16 oz of fatty fish per week or 800-1000 mg/day of EPA+DHA.
If you do not eat fish regularly, a daily omega-3 fish oil or algal-based supplement may be a good choice. Additionally, specialized mercury-free forms of fish oil supplements are also available with a doctor’s prescription and may be covered by insurance companies, depending on your health requirements. Every person should speak to a physician before taking fish oil, as it can react with blood pressure and blood thinning medications. In general, fish oil is considered safe and has very few risks. The two most common side effects are fishy burps and diarrhea. Low to moderately concentrated fish oil pills may produce fewer side effects, but will require you to take more pills, which may be more costly. Many product labels may recommend a higher dosage than you need. Consider modifying the dosage to meet your requirements while still benefiting from a lower-dose pill that has fewer side effects.