The Importance Of Diet-Based Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Image Credit: Salmon fish, Pexels

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be beneficial to one's heart health. These fats are capable of reducing triglyceride levels, which are, to the layperson, one of the "bad fats." Among the omega-3s, DHA and EPA are found in seafood, while ALA is found in plants. To incorporate these healthy fats into your diet, you can consume fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as flaxseed and chia seeds. These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. 

Omega-3 fats have a unique quality that makes them important for overall health. They are key components of cell membranes throughout the body, affecting how the receptors in these membranes function. Additionally, omega-3 fats are the foundation for hormones that control blood clotting, artery wall contraction and relaxation, and inflammation. Furthermore, they bind to receptors in cells that manage genetic processes. Research has shown that omega-3 fats can help to protect against heart disease and stroke, as well as certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may even have a protective effect on certain types of cancer.

 But what are fatty acids? 

The two primary kinds of fatty acids are saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated is then divided into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which are terms you often observe on food labels. Fats that are saturated are commonly known as "harmful" or "unwholesome" fats because they can raise the risk of particular illnesses such as heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are deemed "beneficial" or "favorable" fats as they can promote heart health when eaten in moderation. Omega-3s, being unsaturated, are a healthy alternative to saturated fats

It doesn't matter if the source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish, fish-oil supplements, or food items enriched with the suitable omega-3 fatty acids; there will be detectable adjustments in the cellular membrane content within a few days of increasing the daily intake of these fatty acids.

How do omega-3 fatty acids work in the body? 

Inflammation of various tissues is at the heart of the pathology of a lot of conditions. When the body is exposed to a virus or trauma, inflammation is a natural impulse. If inflammation is not controlled, it can damage the tissues. This out-of-control inflammation is a considerable factor in the development of illnesses such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis. Omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to control arachidonic acid metabolism, which is the basis of their suggested anti-inflammatory effects. 

A piece of salmon, Image Source: Pexels

The most significant proof of the advantage of omega-3 fats relates to heart disease. These fats seem to enable the heart to keep an even beat and not shift into a dangerous or potentially fatal irregular rhythm. Such arrhythmias are the cause of the more than 500,000 cardiac deaths that occur each year in the United States. Omega-3 fats also reduce blood pressure and heart rate, enhance blood vessel function, and, in higher doses, reduce triglycerides. They may also reduce inflammation, which is involved in the development of atherosclerosis. 

How can you incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet?

Fish is the best source of Omega-3s. Because of the numerous advantages of marine omega-3 fatty acids, it is essential to consume fish or other seafood at least one to two times every week, especially the fatty kind (dark meat) that is higher in EPA and DHA. This is especially valid for expecting mothers, those who are expecting to get pregnant, and nursing mothers. Starting from the third trimester until the two-year period, a growing child needs a consistent supply of DHA to properly form their brain and other components of the nervous system. Many women avoid eating fish because they are concerned that mercury and other potential impurities will harm their babies. However, evidence that a lack of omega-3 fats is more evident, and a balance between benefit and risk can be easily achieved. 

Mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, whitefish, tuna, halibut, and sardines are all among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. There are people, especially pregnant women, who are concerned about the high levels of mercury in some fish, as we said earlier. While that is not always the case, there are some species of fish that have more mercury than others. They are king mackerel, merlin, swordfish, and others.

For those who cannot or do not consume fish, food sources of ALA include algae oil, canola oil, chia seeds, edamame, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and walnuts. 

Supplements are also widely available. Do consult with your physician before taking them. The recommended dose is usually between 500 mg and 1 g of marine omega-3 fatty acids, but it is best to get a clearance from your physician first.