Is there really a supplement that promotes anti-aging, prevents heart disease, and decreases joint pain?
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3s. We’ve all heard of them, but what exactly are they?
In short, they are one of two main classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
There are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of which are essential fatty acids—meaning that your body can’t naturally produce them and therefore must be satisfied through food. The more important of the two, you ask?
You guessed it—omega 3s.
Yes, they’re both needed, but omega 6s are often overconsumed.
Because Omega-6s are found in highly-processed oils like vegetable oils, they are also found in most fast-food restaurants and packaged foods (two things you want to steer clear of).
Omega-3s, on the other hand, are found in many natural fatty foods such as walnuts, avocados, flaxseeds, chia seeds, salmon, and oysters.
There are several omega-3s that exist, but there’s really only three that matter:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Something to take note of between these three is that if you’re eating foods that are ALA-rich, just know that ALA can be converted into EPA and then to DHA, but the conversion is extremely limited—less than 15% (1).
Why Are Essential Fatty Acids Important? The Benefits of Omega-3 Revealed
It’s hard to think of what the prized essential fatty acid, Omega-3, doesn’t do…
With multiple studies linking omega-3s to things like an increased lifespan, a reduction of cardiovascular disease, a lowering of triglyceride levels, a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and a possible beneficial effect on stroke, depression, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, omega-3s are like the MVP of essential fatty acids (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8).
Sources of Omega-3
Luckily, there are omega-3 sources for vegans and non-vegans alike (9).
Non-Vegan Food Sources of Omega-3
- Cod liver oil
- Lake trout
Vegan Sources of Omega-3
Note: If you eat a 100% plant-based diet, vegan sources of omega-3s can only convert 1% of ALA into EPA and DHA—the rest is then used for energy. For instance, algae and seaweed only contain DHA—not EPA. So if you want to get a sufficient amount of EPA each day, you’ll need to eat plenty of ALA from nuts and seeds so that your body will convert them into EPA.
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flaxseeds or flaxseed oil
- Dark green leafy vegetables
How Many Omega-3s Do I Need?
The recommendation from the American Heart Association (AHA) is that everyone eats fish (at least) twice a week.
Up to 3 grams of fish oil is the recommended daily intake—according to the AHA. Be sure to consult a healthcare professional before taking any more than that (10).
Are There Any Side Effects from Consuming Omega-3s?
Besides having fishy breath, there aren’t many side effects that come along with omega-3s. Mild symptoms include bad-smelling sweat, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea (11).
Final Thoughts: Omega-3 Fish Oil for Enhanced Health
Having a diet rich in omega-3s is looking to be quite rewarding. And because our bodies can’t naturally produce it, we need to do our due diligence in making sure we’re consuming enough. Your heart, joints, and body will thank you.
- Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, Second Edition
- Fish oil supplements, longevity and aging
- Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease
- Effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids on blood pressure in hypertension. A population-based intervention trial from the Tromsø study
- Health benefits and potential risks related to consumption of fish or fish oil
- Fish oil supplementation: evidence for health benefits
- Omega-3 fatty acids as cancer chemopreventive agents
- Biological effects of omega-3 fatty acids in diabetes mellitus
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Consumer
- Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth | NCCIH