Are you wondering what all the fuss is about? Why everybody is talking about how great Omega 3 is for us? I’m going to give a huge amount of reasons why we should love omega 3s, and then some helpful tips on how to increase the amount of Omega 3 that you are getting!
Written by Louise Comerford
Louise Comerford is currently completing a MSc in nutrition and she is keen to share her enthusiasm and knowledge with people. With her passion for food, science and the healthiness of body and mind, she hopes to inspire others to make small changes with huge benefits to their lives.
What is Omega 3?
Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are needed in a range of body functions, and crucial for being healthy both in mind and body. Omega 3s are ‘essential’ nutrients, meaning the body cannot produce them and they must be obtained via diet. They are important building blocks for cell membranes (particularly in the brain), reduce harmful inflammation and influence important hormones and hormone like molecules (eg. prostaglandins).
Omega 3 Benefits
The amazing thing about Omega 3 is that it has so many potential benefits. There is currently a buzzing amount of research that has been and is still being done around Omega 3; most of it showing benefits on heart health and brain function, but also starting to find multiple other benefits for Omega 3. Here is a list of some benefits that have been suggested so far…
- Improves memory and attention and learning ability
- Improves depressive symptoms in Manic depressives
- Improves depressive symptoms in Major depressives
- Improves symptoms of schizophrenia
- Improves mood in general
- Reduces risk of ADHD in children
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Reduces the risk of heart attack
- Reduces the severity of heart attacks that do occur
- Reduces the risk of stroke
- Reduces irregular heart rhythms
- Reduces blood clots
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers blood triglyceride levels and increases good cholesterol.
- Reduces the risk of and the symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis
- Improves skin health and youthfulness
- Improves skin condition in dermatitis
- Reduces menstrual pain
- Reduces risk of multiple cancers (Breast, prostate)
- Reduces risk of diabetes
How to increase your omega 3 intake
Hopefully you are nice and convinced that having a little more Omega3 in your life can only be a good thing. So, here are a few foods you might want to eat more of.
Fish is the best source of Omega 3 as it provides DHA and EPA which are Omegas3s that are more readily processed by the body than Omega 3 ALA.
Oily fish includes salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, anchovies, herring, trout, and tuna (fresh).
Tinned tuna does contain Omega 3 but not as much as in found in fresh tuna and other oily fish. Omega 3 is often lost to the cleaning and cooking processes and through leaving out the omega-3 rich dark meat of the tuna. If you buy tinned tuna, check the label to see if it contains Omega 3 (DHA and EPA) and try to choose a tin with higher levels. Tuna stored in water is also preferable to those stored in oil, as Omega 3 can be lost in the oil once you drain it.
White fish & shell fish
Examples of white fish include cod, haddock, plaice, and pollack.
You should try to buy wild caught fish as they contain far more Omega 3 and far less of the nasty pesticides and antibiotics found in farmed fish.
Shell fish such as prawns, mussels, oysters, squid, langoustine, and crab are also great sources.
White fish and shell fish are very low fat fish containing much less Omega 3 than oily fish, but are still a good and tasty source nonetheless.
If you don’t eat fish there are also plenty of vegan alternatives. These vegan sources contain Omega 3 ALA which only partially converts to EPA and DHA, so it wouldn’t hurt to really stock up on these yummy foods and have fun adding them to as many dishes as you can!
Seeds, nuts and oil
Flax seeds (lin seeds), chia seeds , hemp seeds and walnuts are all very good vegan sources of Omega 3. It is easy to add them to your diet by just topping your breakfast porridge or muesli with them, adding them as a bit of crunch in your salad, or even just nibbling them as snacks. These sources also come in oil form. As these oils have a low smoking point, so it is best to stick to using them as tasty salad dressing rather than for cooking with.
Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, salad greens, and brussels sprouts, are some amazing omega 3 containing vegetables.
Food Vs Supplements
You will have noticed that Omega 3 supplements are being marketed and sold everywhere, so why eat more Omega 3 food sources when you can take a supplement?
Research has implicated that Omega 3 may be better absorbed from food than it is from supplements. Plus, all these food sources have many other beneficial nutrients and minerals within them that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on!
How to choose the right Omega 3 Supplement
Here are a few things to bear in mind if you choose to purchase supplements to boost your omega 3. All this information should be found by reading the label. If not, then it is a safe bet it probably isn’t a gooden!
Omega 3 Content
- Choose Omega 3 content is around or over half the total fat content.
- Choose Tri-Glyceride forms of Omega 3 (TG) and not Ethyl-ester forms (EE), as these are more easily absorbed.
- Avoid any product that does not state EPA and DHA amounts in each serving. It is also best to look for a Potency guarantee as it has been found that the levels in some brands are not what they claim to be.
- Avoid Omega 3, 6 & 9 combinations. These are not a better deal and may in fact counteract the potential benefits of the Omega 3.
- Choose a label which shows it is certified as pure and free from harmful contaminants such as mercury.
Additives and Preservatives
- Choose natural preservatives such as vitamin E, rosemary or green tea catechins, and avoid those with out preservatives.
- Avoid artificial additives and preservatives. These are often found in the kid-friendly chewy supplements.
Vegetarian / Vegan
- Choose Algae derived supplements. These are high in DHA, and some even include EPA.
- Avoid gelatine based capsules if you are vegan