Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential ingredient in maintaining optimum health and wellbeing. Found in fish, vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds and leafy greens, it is one of the most important types of fats that the body cannot make. That’s right, though our bodies are capable of making most of the fats it needs from other fats and raw materials, omega-3 fatty acids have to be gained into the body through proper nutrition. This is why they are known as essential fats. Much like essential oils, these fats cannot be simply formulated within the body and must be attained through proper nutrition.
The reason why omega-3 fats are so important is due to the fact that they are essential parts of cell membranes throughout the body. Hence at the level of a cell, for the healthy functioning of your cell receptors, omega-3 fats are very important.
Omega-3 fats help make hormones that regulate various mechanisms in our body. From the blood clotting mechanism to the relaxation and contraction of artery walls, these hormones play an essential role.
When it comes to diseases, omega-3 fats have been identified to help prevent heart disease and stroke, skin conditions such as eczema and even arthritis. They may even play an essential role in protecting your body against cancer.
Keep reading this word to word as we explain the various health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. You will come to realise that omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of a healthy life.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are some essential health benefits of omega-3 fats, which is what makes them an essential fat for our bodies. These health benefits are powerful, so be sure to read them all.
To better understand the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, you should be familiar with the three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA.
1) Better Skin
When it comes to understanding the importance of omega-3 fatty acids on your skin, you have to first understand that the structural component of your skin is DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
As mentioned prior, omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that can only be acquired through nutrition. You have to consume omega-3 fatty acids, that is the only way your body can acquire this essential fat.
Your skin is made up of cells all of which have cell membranes, which is composed of, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids.
In order to really look after your skin, you should be ensuring that you take a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats enable healthier cell membranes, which result in soft and nourished, wrinkle-free skin.
EPA, which is another type of omega-3 fatty acid helps manage oil production and hydration in your skin and reduces the chances of developing acne. It also prevents premature ageing of your skin and prevents hyperkeratinization of hair follicles.
When it comes to sun exposure, omega-3 fatty acids could help protect your skin from sun damage. This is because EPA blocks the substances that destroy the collagen of your skin when exposed to the sun.
2) Improved Sleep Patterns
Sleep is essential to the proper functioning of our body. There are so many diseases that are caused due to bad sleep; obesity and depression are two to name.
When you consume lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, you tend to have sleep problems. This has been identified in various studies for both children and adults alike.
The hormone melatonin helps you fall asleep. Low levels of DHA have been associated with low levels of melatonin, which may be the reasoning as to why people with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids have bad sleep.
Studies have shown that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids improved sleep performance in both adults and children.
Hence if you are trying to understand the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, try to understand the importance of sleep to your overall wellbeing.
3) Eases Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain can be a really significant downfall, which can negatively affect the quality of life for a woman. Occurring in the lower abdomen and pelvis, the pain can shift to various parts of the lower body.
It has been proven that women who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids experienced milder symptoms of menstrual pain.
Ensuring that you consume sufficient omega-3 fatty acids could be more reliable than even ibuprofen to treat severe menstrual pain.
4) Improves Bones and Joints
As mentioned prior, omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent arthritis. Arthritis and osteoporosis are two common disorders that affect the skeletal system of your body. Omega-3 fatty acids help strengthen your bones. This is done by increasing the amount of calcium deposited into your bones.
As a result, omega-3 has been linked to improved conditions of arthritis, with patients who partook in studies experiencing less joint pain due to the improved strength of bones and joints.
5) Can Treat a Fatty Liver
A fatty liver is a common cause of chronic liver disease. Though alcohol is one of the main reasons for a bad liver, people who don’t consume alcohol develop a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This has been linked to obesity in various studies conducted.
Obese people run the risk of developing chronic liver disease, due to the build-up of fat in the liver. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to the mix greatly help reduce liver fat, thus protecting you from chronic liver disease.
6) Reduces Asthma in Children
The chronic lung disease asthma is common in children. It causes coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. With the increased severity of asthma, the dangers of the disease escalate, often causing a lot of trouble and pain to the child.
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids helps reduce the symptoms of asthma in children. It can also help you prevent the condition from developing altogether.
7) Helps Prevent Cancer
It has been identified that omega-3 fatty acids help prevent the risk of developing certain types of cancers.
With a lower risk of developing prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women, omega-3 fatty acids can even help prevent colon cancer. This is a noteworthy health benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, which is what makes it such an important essential fat.
8) Helps Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s
It’s true, as we age our performance and brain function decreases. This as a result could cause diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Consuming sufficient omega-3 fatty acids helps to ensure that your body is capable of fighting these diseases. It prevents mental decline in older people. It has been observed that the increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids in people, suppressed mild symptoms of mental decline and Alzheimer’s.
9) Improve Mental Disorders
It has been studied that people with psychiatric disorders had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their body.
Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids could greatly improve any mental disorder, which is why many health practitioners prescribe omega-3 supplementation with mental disorder medication. It can prevent relapses in people who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
It also works well to reduce the tendencies of mood swings.
10) Fights Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases are diseases caused by your immune system itself. Your immune system starts mistaking healthy cells for foreign cells and begins to attack them. An example of this is type 1 diabetes, where the healthy insulin-producing cells are attacked by the immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids help to fight these conditions in your body by ensuring that your immune system is kept up to date. It can be an integral component in early life with studies showing that sufficient omega-3 fatty acids in the early stages of life can reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
11) Fights Inflammation
Chronic or long term inflammation can be dangerous to health and can lead to more serious illness such as heart disease and cancer. Though inflammation is a natural response to infections and damage in the body, more serious cases of inflammation are linked to illness as mentioned prior, which is a reason to worry.
Inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines have been linked to such inflammation. Omega-3 help reduces these substances in your body thereby protecting you from inflammation. Higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids thereby lower the risk of developing many illnesses caused by chronic inflammation.
12) Reduces Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of illnesses and conditions and is common in obese people. It usually includes insulin resistance, blood pressure, high cholesterol; all of which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
The fact that it can lead to such major issues in your body is the sole reason why metabolic syndrome is such a cause for concern.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome by controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and regulating insulin production in your body. This is why it is considered an essential fat; an essential part of health and wellbeing.
13) Reduce ADHD in Children
Characterised by the inability to pay attention and hyperactivity, ADHA, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common illness in children. Much like other mental illnesses, studies have linked children with ADHA to lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD by improving attention and concentration. They also work to calm the child thereby decreasing elements of hyperactivity. Fish oil supplements are considered one of the best ways to ensure that your body gets sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
14) Lower Risks of Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the most common causes of deaths in the world. In general, fish-eating communities usually have a lower risk of developing heart disease. This has now been linked to the omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in fish.
Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglyceride levels and reduce blood pressure in people who suffer from high blood pressure. It also raises HDL cholesterol in your body. HDL is known as the good cholesterol. They also help prevent blot clots inside your body, which could block up your arteries; ensuring that your arteries are maintained at optimum conditions. Further, omega-3 fatty acids reduce the inflammatory response in your body.
It is a combination of all these factors which makes omega-3 fatty acids so important in lowering the risks of heart disease. There is certainly a benefit to ensuring that you lower the risks of heart disease by ensuring that you get a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet; or through supplementation.
15) Promotes Brain Health in Early Life
Brain growth and development in infants are a necessary part of a healthy life; the proper development of the brain in early life cannot be iterated enough. That being the case, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be an integral component in this development mechanism.
DHA, one of the types of omega-3 fatty acid, accounts for a great portion of fatty acids in your brain and retina. This is why children who are fed formula rich in DHA have better eyesight.
Studies have shown that women who took a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids had numerous benefits to the children including decreased risk of developing mental illnesses and better communication and intelligence.
16) Improves Eye Health
As mentioned prior, DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is an integral structural component of the retina in your eyes. Hence when there are lower levels of DHA in your body, the tendency to develop an eye condition is drastically increased.
Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of loss of vision and blindness. Omega-3 fatty acids greatly help reduce macular degeneration in your eyes, thereby ensuring that your vision is protected.
For people who have poor vision, increasing the levels of DHA in their bodies have been identified in bettering vision.
17) Fights Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental disorders in the world. Depression has symptoms including sadness and the general loss of interest in life. Anxiety causes nervousness and increased worry. Both these conditions can have tragic consequences on one’s life.
Studies have shown that for people who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids, the prevalence of depression was lower. This is why many health practitioners prescribe omega-3 supplementation when diagnosing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
EPA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, has been identified as the more prevalent in fighting depression. In fact, studies have proven EPA to be as effective as antidepressant drugs in fighting depression.
18) Aids Weight Loss
Obesity is one of the major problems the world’s population is facing. When it comes to losing weight, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role. Obesity can increase your chances of developing more serious illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
It has been noted that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can aid weight loss. Omega-3 fatty acids in combination with good nutrition and exercise could help you in your weight loss journey.
This is because when it comes to fats, omega-3 fatty acids are the best types of fat. This is the reason why so many dieticians recommend eating a good portion of fish every day to ensure that your body gets a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
When it comes to sourcing these fatty acids, it is more difficult to do when on a vegan diet. This is because the most reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. However, there are some seeds and nuts which are high in omega-3 fatty acids too. Flax seeds contain about 2,350 mg per serving with chia seeds containing even more; 5,060 mg per serving. These are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids if on a plant-based diet.
Another reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids is walnuts. Walnuts are loaded with nutritional value and has tones of fibre which make them amazing for your skin and digestive tract. They also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, 2,570 mg per ounce.
Soybeans are another reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also very high in omega-6 fatty acids.
However, when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a reliable source. The quantity of omega-3 fatty acids various depending on the type of fish. Have a look at the list below to get a better idea of the omega-3 fatty acid content in various types of fish.
*Contains a high level of Mercury. Limit the amount you eat.
Source: USDA Food Composition Databases
How much Omega-3 Fatty Acids do I need?
It is recommended that if you suffer from a heart condition, that you eat at least 2 servings of fish per week. You can choose any type of fish and can get a better idea of how much omega-3 is found in each fish from the list above.
If you have a heart condition, then it is advised that you take at least one gram of a combination of EPA and DHA every day. If you find it difficult to manage the required amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, you can consider taking an omega-3 supplementation.
If you have high triglyceride levels, then the amount of omega-3 fatty acids you require are greater. It is recommended that your try get at least 2 to 4 grams of a combination of EPA and DHA. This will greatly help you lower your triglycerides levels.
Please note that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in your body could cause bleeding. If you are consuming more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.
Why are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important?
With all the health benefits omega-3 fatty acids brings with them, it goes without saying that this essential fat is an integral component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By ensuring that you get a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, you help in prevents so many illnesses. Omega-3 fatty acids are great for your heart and your overall wellbeing and can keep cancer at bay.
It is the combination of all the benefits omega-3 fatty acids brings to your body, that makes it so important in the eyes of nutrition. Hence make sure to get your fair share of omega-3 fatty acids and stay healthy.