I’m sure everyone knows that omega-3-fatty acids are good for you since they are mentioned everywhere. But what most might not realize are all the benefits and why they are important for our bodies. Our bodies cannot make omega-3’s, which means they are an essential fatty acid and we need to get them from our diet. They are essential because they are needed for important body functions.
Benefits of Omega-3s:
- Fight Inflammation: The majority of the American diet consists of high sugar and processed foods, and most of us don’t get enough whole foods. Therefore, we are deficient in omega-3-fatty acids. Processed and high sugar foods are major causes of inflammation. Inflammation is the main cause of most diseases, so getting sufficient amounts of omega-3s help decrease this inflammation. (1, 2, 3)
- Improves Heart Health: Omega-3-fatty acids positively affect risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. They regulate cholesterol levels. There is good and bad cholesterol – High Density Lipids (HDL) are “good” and Low Density Lipids (LDL) are “bad”. Omega-3s raise the HDL levels. Our HDL levels should be higher than LDL levels. Omega-3-fatty acids also lower triglycerides (major risk factor for heart disease), lowers high blood pressure, prevents plaque build-up (prevents blockage of arteries and prevents damage), and may prevent formation of blood clots. (4, 5, 6)
- Helps Anxiety, Depression and ADHD: Studies have shown that people who consume Omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed. Research has also shown that those with depression and/or anxiety their symptoms improve with supplementing omega-3s. Several studies have found that kids with ADHD have lower omega-3 levels than their peers. Studies have also found that omega-3-fatty acids reduce the symptoms of ADHD, help children pay more attention and focus, decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression. (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- Fights Autoimmune Diseases: It seems more and more people are being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases like Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Psoriasis and Multiple Sclerosis. Omega-3s can help fight autoimmune diseases. Studies have even shown that getting enough omega-3s in the first year of life can help reduce the risks of autoimmune diseases. (13, 14, 15, 16)
- May Support Healthy Bones and Joints: Research has seen an increase in calcium absorption that improves the strength of bones and production of collagen, preventing osteoporosis, with consumption of essential fatty acids. Omega-3s decreased the inflammation, and bone and joint pain associated with arthritis. (17, 18)
- Fights Age-Related Mental Decline and Alzheimer’s: Loss of memory and decreased brain function is unfortunately a consequence of aging, but studies have shown that higher omega-3-fatty acid levels are related to increased brain function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. (19, 20, 21)
- Important for Infant and Child Development: It’s extremely important for developing babies and children to get sufficient amounts of omega-3-fatty acids for proper brain and eye development. Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy has been shown to increase mental processing, hand-eye coordination, psychomotor and audial processing. (22, 23, 24)
- Supports Healthy Skin: Essential fatty acids benefit the skin from the inside out by regulating oil production, regulating hydration of the skin and can even slow the aging process. Omega-3s help and prevent acne, and fight related inflammation. (25, 26)
- And many more!
Foods High in Omega-3-Fatty Acids
- Atlantic Mackerel (highest)
- Chia Seeds
- Salmon (wild caught)
- Flaxseeds (ground)
- Albacore Tuna
- White Fish
- Hemp Seeds
There are hundreds of different brands of omega-3 supplements. Which ones are the best? If you recall from my previous blog about whole food vitamins vs synthetic vitamins, there are no regulations to supplements. Meaning companies can list any ingredients on their labels or not list certain ingredients, etc. They can even say they are “natural” when in reality only 10% of the product needs to come from a whole food source. Omega-3-fatty acids or fish oil are no different.
So how do you know if your omegas are 100% fish oil? Or if they contain more water or synthetic fillers? Or if they are mostly saturated fats than unsaturated fats (omega-3s)? You can freeze them! The majority of omega-3s come in a gel cap and are clear. So just throw one gel cap into the freezer overnight and in the morning give it a shake. If you see several tiny bubbles floating around and the gel cap is still clear, you know you have a good supplement and only contain Omega-3-Fatty Acids. Omega-3s have a very low freezing temperature. If your supplement is completely solid or opaque in color (like butter), it is not a good source of Omega-3s and it mostly contains saturated fats (which we already get too much of in our diets and they raise “bad” cholesterol). What is also important to note is if the fish oil is fresh or rancid, if it is contaminated with mercury, and if the label is accurate for the amount of omega-3-fatty acids present. These questions will be answered if the supplements have been tested and approved by a third party, which they should be. We all need adequate amounts of omega-3-fatty acids, but we also need high quality products to get all the benefits.