The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acid is accepted by the medical and nutrition community as a heart-healthy fat. However, like many aspects of nutrition, while omega-3 is healthy, some people may not understand exactly how or why it benefits the body.
To start, the omega-3 fat is listed as an essential fatty acid. This means that the human body can not produce the fat on its own and it must be consumed through the diet in order to provide its health benefits.
It is recommended and encouraged to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods rather than supplements. It can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, tuna, herring, anchovies, bluefish, and sturgeon.
Omega-3 can also be found in walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, and soybean oil.
The health benefits of omega-3 are great for all people, but should be seriously taken into consideration by anyone who may be suffering from heart disease.
For those with heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends one gram of omega-3 per day. This can be achieved through eating the fish and/or the nuts mentioned above. One quarter cup of walnuts has nearly three grams of omega-3's! As with all health matters, it is also recommended you speak with your doctor as he or she may also recommend a fish oil supplement. Studies have shown heart attack survivors who boost their omega-3 intake experienced fewer heart attacks and fewer heart disease deaths.
The omega-3 fatty acid can help the heart in more ways than one. When digested, it enters the blood and helps prevent inflamation in the blood vessels. Inflamation, a common aspect of heart disease, narrows the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure and stress on the heart. It can also slow the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels. Both inflammation and plaque in the blood vessels can cause high blood pressure and put unnecessary strain on the heart.
Omega-3s can also lower the body’s triglycerides, which is essentially fat in the blood that at high levels has been linked to heart disease. When coupled with exercise, minimal alcohol consumption, and decreased consumption of sugary foods and processed carbs, trigylercide levels can be significantly lowered.
In conclusion, the omega-3 fatty acid should be included in everyone’s heart healthy diet. Omega-3 has been shown to decrease the risk and impact of heart disease and risk of heart attacks. If you have any more questions, contact one of our Health Coaches and, as always, it is recommended to consult one’s doctor before taking any supplements, even if they are over the counter.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a specific type of Unsaturated Fat. Unsaturated Fats are a type of triglyceride with double bonds chemically between at least one carbon in their "fatty acid tail" (pictures below, right). Omega-3 fatty acids specifically have this double bond located at the third carbon, hence the "3." This unique double bond location causes the body to process omega-3's differently, leading to their special health benefits