Everything You Need to Know about Omega-3s

June 1, 2015

Written by Amanda Gilles, RD. Not all fats are created equal. Granted, they will all provide 9 calories per gram, however some will promote health and some will promote disease. When it comes to fats we have: the bad, the good, the best, and the exceptional! I’m referring to: trans fats, saturated fats, unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Trans fats are the bad guys. They promote plaque build-up, atherosclerosis and heart disease, and should be avoided. Saturated fats have taken a lot of flack over the years. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics just released a position paper, stating saturated fats are not directly correlated to disease, like previously thought. These fats can be consumed in moderation, without increased risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are the fats that should be plentiful in our diets, think avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters and flaxseed. They provide numerous benefits that promote health and longevity. Don’t skimp on these. The Omega-3 fatty acids are a particular type of polyunsaturated fats, these fats are truly the best of the best. Of all the fats, these ones are going to provide you with the most health benefits, and prevent and/or manage health concerns ranging from depression to cardiovascular disease to arthritis. Our bodies cannot make omega 3 fatty acids, which makes it an essential nutrient. We have to consume Omegas through our diet, otherwise we will become deficient. When deficiency occurs, your health will begin to decline. To eat enough omega-3’s to prevent deficiency; we would need to consume several servings of wild caught fatty fish each week. In addition we would need to load up daily on: extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, chia seeds and algae. Let’s face it, in the world today, this type of diet is very difficult to achieve. The other concern is the omega-6 and omega-9 to omega-3 ratio. Our diet contains drastically more omega 6 and 9. The ratio of these oils to omega-3 should ideally be about 1:1, in today’s world it is more like: 20:1. So along with having fewer and fewer sources of omega-3 rich foods in our diet, we are seeing more and more omega-6 and omega-9 fats in our foods. Unfortunately, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids do not carry the same health benefits as the well-known omega-3. These fats are abundant in processed packaged foods, and tend to be more inflammatory to our bodies; especially in the quantities we consume. Not all fish oil is created equal – The Types of Omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) This particular fatty acid is a key player in promoting cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation within the body. Here are some of the benefits you can expect from EPA:
  • Lowers risk of heart disease (when part of a healthy lifestyle)
  • Lowers triglyceride levels
  • Fights inflammation in the body
  • Improves blood flow through the arteries and slow the building of plaque inside arteries
  • Keeps blood vessels nimble and flexible
  • Decreases blood pressure and maintain a steady heart rate
  • Reduce soreness and tenderness of joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) Research suggests DHA specifically plays a role in supporting cognitive and visual development and function, and decreasing inflammation within the body. Here are some benefits you can expect from DHA
  • Promotes clear thinking and improved memory
  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Reduces risk of cancer
  • Enhances blood sugar regulation
  • Curbs or lessens symptoms of postpartum depression, manic depression, bipolar disease and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Keeps optimal eye health and reduces the risk for age-related vision problems
  • Reduces soreness and tenderness of joints in people with rheumatoid arthritis
ALA (alpha linolenic acid)
  • This is the short-chain form of omega-3 fats, and found only in plant sources, such as walnuts, flaxseed, soybean oil, and chia seeds. The body needs to convert the short-chain version into a long-chain version of omega-3s in order to efficiently use it, and this conversion doesn’t happen very quickly. We can still reap healthy benefits from incorporating this polyunsaturated fat into our diet, despite the low conversion rate into usable omega-3.
Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include:
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Krill oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Omega-3 supplements
Spotting an exceptional fish oil/omega-3 supplement:
  • At least 1000mg of combined EPA and DHA
  • Ratio of 3:2 of EPA to DHA
  • 3rd party tested for quality and purity of ingredients
  • GMP label – Good Manufacturing Practice
Omega 3 fatty acids play a significant role in our well-being. They also influence how we perform daily activities. A diet rich in this nutrient can: improve athletic performance through reduced pain and inflammation, improve performance at work with improved concentration and focus, plus decrease risk of chronic disease, improve cholesterol levels and even positively shape your mood! Start incorporating omega-3 rich foods to your diet and/or start taking a supplement to feel your very best!