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Health and Fitness News

The Big Deal about Omega-3s

You keep getting told to eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Here’s why.

Over the years, we’ve realized that all fats are not created equal. As a result, you probably know that there are good dietary fats and bad dietary fats. Good fats play an important role in your physical and mental health.

Besides providing energy and supporting cell growth, fats help your body absorb nutrients and produce hormones. The two fats you want to include in your diet are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

When it comes to fats, few are as touted as omega-3 fatty acids. Heralded as one of the best types of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3s have amazing health benefits. And because these benefits have been extensively studied, you can be confident that when you’re eating foods rich in this type of fat, you’re doing your mind and body a service.

What foods are high in omega-3s and why are they so good for you? Keep reading to find out.

Plant and Animal Sources

There are 11 types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the three key players are EPA, DHA, and ALA. Fatty fish are one of the best sources EPA and DHA. Salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring are all high in these valuable fats. Because they’re so good for you, experts recommend you eat fish at least twice a week.

ALA fats are found in certain plant foods including oils (flaxseed, soybean, and canola), nuts (walnuts and butternuts), and seeds (ground flaxseeds, hemp, and chia seeds). Since these foods are also high in calories, eat them in moderation.
While food is the best way to get omega-3s, you can also take a supplement. Just be sure to discuss any new supplements with your doctor.

Wide Range of Health Benefits

Omega-3s are known for the many health benefits they provide. They are especially famous for their heart health perks. Throughout the world, heart disease is a leading cause of death, but those who eat a lot of fish have a lower risk of this deadly disease. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids work to reduce blood pressure, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, lower triglycerides, prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots, and reduce unwanted inflammation that can harm the circulatory system.

Suffer with depression or anxiety? You may want to increase the amount of omega-3s in your diet. These common mental health conditions may be relieved by eating a little more fish. The omega-3 fat EPA seems the most effective at fighting depression, possibly as effective as antidepressant drugs.

Pregnant and nursing mothers also benefit. Therefore they should eat adequate amounts of omega-3s. If using formula for your infant, seek a type that is DHA-fortified, as DHA is needed for healthy visual and neurological development in babies. Pregnant women who eat enough omega-3s tend to have babies with better social skills, higher intelligence, fewer developmental delays, fewer behavioral problems, and a lower risk of autism, and ADHD.

Need more reasons to go omega-3 crazy? Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in reducing ADHD symptoms in children. Kids who struggle with hyperactivity, paying attention, and impulsivity may find relief with a fish oil supplement.

Another benefit of omega-3s is protection from age-related mental decline. Want to keep your mind sharp as you age? Eat a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats like omega-3.

As if you needed more reasons to indulge in omega-3s, this source of fat reduces your risk of serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. And you can also find relief from symptoms of asthma, lupus, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.