Omega 3

Some fats have a bad rep, but this fatty acid challenges the status quo. Learn the best sources of omega 3 and how much you need to reap the rewards.

Selection of healthy fats, such as fish, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, selective focus.
Selection of healthy fat ingredients
  • Published: 4/27/2022
  • 5 min. read

Omega 3 is the way to be! Some dietary fats have a bad rep, but this disease-fighting fatty acid challenges the mainstream with its powerful benefits. Omega 3 proves to protect your brain, help heart health, and reduce pain and inflammation. Learn the optimal sources of omega 3, which forms to focus on, and how much you need to reap rich rewards. 

What is omega-3?

Omega-3s are dietary fats that are essential to the human body, meaning we need to get them from the foods we eat. They are classified as polyunsaturated, which include omega-3 and omega-6. They are a key component of our cells, so they play an essential role in our growth, development, and body operations. 

Why are omega-3s healthy?

Omega-3s are so important because they have been shown to offer impressive disease-preventing benefits (1). They are important for heart health, help reduce inflammation, and improve brain and skin health. 

Omega-3 has been suggested to help:

Reduce blood pressure 

Multiple studies suggest that people who take fish oil supplements have reductions in blood pressure levels. In fact, omega-3 has been shown to reduce blood pressure as effectively as exercising more, reducing salt, or limiting alcohol (2). 

Improve cholesterol levels

The American Heart Association recommends omega-3 for patients with high cholesterol (3). Supplements have been shown to lower triglyceride levels and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels.

Decrease pain and inflammation

Over time, high levels of inflammation can cause damage to our DNA and may lead to conditions such as obesity, cancer, or heart disease (4). Fish oil and omega-3 supplements can help reduce inflammation by increasing the amount of special molecules that regulate inflammation components in our blood (5). 

Benefit arthritis

A review of at least 13 studies found that when people with rheumatoid arthritis took omega-3 supplements, they had reduced joint pain. Omega-3 may potentially also help patients reduce the amount of anti-inflammatory medication they take (6). Make sure to consult your physician before changing your medication or diet.  

Mood and neurological disorders

Omega-3’s are suggested to have neuroprotective properties, meaning they help protect our brains and could serve as a part of treatment for neurodegenerative and neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s (7). 

Some studies have also reflected the beneficial impacts of mood disorders; however, more research is needed. Some research has shown some benefits of omega-3 in relation to depression (8). On the flip side, a deficiency of omega-3 has contributed to mood disorders and could offer a piece of the treatment puzzle (8). 

Sources of omega-3

There are different forms of omega-3, depending on what type of food you get them from - plant or animal. Oily fish is the best source of omega-3. The types of omega-3 that come from fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The type that comes from plant oils is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (9). 

Your body can convert some plant-based ALA into EPA and then DHA, but only in small amounts of less than 15% (9). Since DHA is critical for our brain, it's good to get EPA and DHA from foods (or supplements).

Sources of omega-3:

  • Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines.
  • Fortified foods: some eggs, yogurt, juice, soy. 
  • Seeds and nuts (ALA): flaxseed oil and seeds, chia seeds, walnuts. 

Do you need omega-3 supplements?

Research suggests that supplements may not reduce the risk of heart disease, but people who eat seafood one to four times per week are less likely to die from heart disease. In comparison, other studies showed that supplements do help (9). 

It comes down to the big picture as well as the quality of the supplements. It's always better to focus on a healthy, well-rounded diet with natural sources of omega-3 first. However, you may want to consider taking a supplement if you can’t eat fish or don’t like fish.

It's always important to consult your physician before trying a new supplement. If your physician recommends that you take one, aim for a combination of EPA and DHA. Look for indicators of good quality supplements such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumerlab.com (10). 

Is the omega-3 & omega-6 ratio important? 

Omega 3 is classified as a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). This includes both omega-3 and omega-6. PUFAs are different from saturated and monounsaturated fats because they have two or more double bonds. These are typically liquid at room temperature, such as with olive oil

It’s thought that too much omega-6 can increase inflammation because our bodies convert it to another fatty acid called arachidonic acid. Too much arachidonic acid may contribute to an unhealthy heart (11). Yet, the American Heart Association did a scientific review and discovered that eating more omega-6 does not necessarily increase inflammation in the body (10). 

Omega-6 fats have health benefits such as antioxidants. They have been suggested to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol while boosting healthy HDL cholesterol. They also can help improve blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity (10). So, rather than decreasing omega-6 in the diet, it's best to focus on getting them from natural sources and including more omega-3 foods in your diet.  

Omega-3 rich recipe: Salmon burgers with mango salsa verde

These sweet and spicy salmon burgers pack plenty of omega-3 healthy fats into one delicious dish, making it perfect for lunch or dinner.

If you want to boost your omega-3 count, buy omega-3 eggs. In addition to the omega-3, you’re getting heart-healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado. Hello healthy you!

Check out the recipe here: Salmon burgers with mango salsa verde

Want a step-by-step plan that ensures you get healthy helpings of omega-3s? Download the Lifesum app today. 

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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