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The Most Important Omega-3 Facts You Need to Know

omega-3-important-facts-you-need-to-knowOmega-3 fatty acids are a hot topic in health today, and you may have heard about them in a variety of ways.

The truth is these fatty acids are a huge deal to your health.

Our modern diet has significantly reduced the amounts of omega-3s that we consume, and we’re getting sicker as a result.

THE QUICK AND DIRTY

Omega-3s are fatty acids found in the foods we eat and are made up of 3 major types.

The first is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is found mostly in plants and is the reason some people take flax seed oil to get dietary omega-3s.

The other two are eicopentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are found in seafood and fish-these are our fish oil supplements.

WHY WE CARE

Omega-3s are a hot topic and critical to know about because our bodies cannot make them- this is why they’re called essential fatty acids (EFA)- it’s essential we get them from our diet.

They’re found throughout the body and have largely anti-inflammatory properties….imagine inflammation as a fire in your tissues, and these fatty acids are the extinguisher.

Remember ALA, DHA, and EPA? Let’s focus in a little…

Some people (usually vegetarians) try to get all of their omega-3s from plants (ALA) because our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA.

Seems pretty straight-forward, right?

Not totally.

Our bodies can only convert small amounts of ALA into the other 2 forms, so you either need to consume dietary sources of EPA and DHA or get them in the form of a supplement (HINT: it’s not flax seed oil).

These fatty acids help make up the cell membranes throughout your body (very important that our cells have strong membranes).

You also have especially high levels of DHA in your retinas, sperm cells (anyone trying to get pregnant-may not be a bad idea to get your guy to eat a little more salmon!), and your brain.

Your brain likes DHA. Your brain needs DHA.

If you’re not eating enough omega-3s you can end up with high levels of inflammation throughout your body…

and inflammation is the root cause of most problems in the body.

WHAT DOES A DEFICIENCY CAUSE

Because omega-3s are found throughout the body, not having enough has been shown to contribute to a wide range of problems.

Studies tell us that people who consume more omega-3s have lower risk of developing the following:
Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia
Anxiety Disorders
ADHD
Poor infant development– if the mother does not consume enough during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Cancer– works well in conjunction with medical cancer drugs and as a natural cancer support
Cardiovascular disease– EPA and DHA can directly lower triglyceride levels
Diabetes– reduces risk of damaging effects of diabetes in the brain, eyes, and cardiovascular system
Depression– a study showed a 40% decrease in symptoms of depression in adolescents
Rheumatoid arthritis
Back and neck pain– omega-3s have been shown to lower discogenic pain as much as NSAIDS…without all the nasty side effects
Age-related macular degeneration(AMD)– a French study in 2014 determined that supplementing fish oil could help reverse AMD

Keep in mind that it is not always a deficiency alone that leads to increased risk of these issues.
Many health problems are due to the fact that we are consuming way too many omega-6 fatty acids instead of omega-3s.

The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 2:1

Americans are eating a ratio closer to 20:1

20:1, PEOPLE!

Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory (fuels the fire) which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

We need inflammation. It helps to heal a cut…to fight off infections…too much inflammation over time = chronic disease

So while it’s important you add omega-3s to your diet, reduce omega-6 and mind the ratio!

HOW WILL MORE OMEGA-3S HELP?

Omega-3s are awesome at helping ward off chronic disease

But did you know they help you function better too?

Here are some examples of how Omega-3 improves health:
Improved immune function– combined with a compound called astaxanthin, omega-3s can boost immunity. Salmon naturally contains both of these compounds and is a great option for a healthier immune response
Healthier skin and hair
Fertility– high levels are found in sperm and help with robustness and motility

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF SUPPLEMENTATION

Just like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad.

Don’t overdo it with supplements (unless your doctor is working with you and monitoring your levels).

Stick to lower than 2g a day from supplements.

Always aim to get the majority from foods because they contain a plethora of good s*&# you just can’t get from a pill.

Food is medicine

BEST SOURCES OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

If you’re going to supplement- find a high quality brand that lab tests for mercury and has added astaxanthin (for those immune benefits).

You also need to be wary of oxidation-cheap and processed supplements can go bad and be ineffective…

You don’t want to spend money for an ineffective supplement!

Look for a brand that is in triglyceride form and has added antioxidants.

Most people will benefit from 1000mg per day– though a minimum of 500mg may still be effective

As far as food sources are concerned…cold water and fatty fish are my absolute favorite ways to get in omega-3 fatty acids

You may just be surprised at how much you enjoy these little guys when prepared right.
I often dream about a nice tin of sardines on a giant pile of fresh salad…

Buuuuutttt if I lost you there, aim to eat the following foods:

Always look for wild-caught fish!

Sushi anyone?
⦁ Wild-caught salmon
⦁ Sardines
⦁ Herring
⦁ Mackerel
⦁ Halibut
⦁ Pollock
⦁ Fish roe
⦁ Walnuts
⦁ Flax seed oil
⦁ Dark green leafy vegetables

While grass-fed beef has minimal amounts of omega-3s compared to fish, it has significantly more than conventionally-raised beef (which is way higher in omega-6s) so go for the choose grass-fed to keep down inflammation!

LET’S WRAP THINGS UP

Omega-3s are good for you.
They reduce inflammation and help prevent and minimize effects of chronic disease.

Keep your ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s close to 2:1

Eat plenty of wild-caught fatty and cold water fish

If you supplement: 500-1000mg (fish/cod liver/krill oil) in triglyceride form with added anti-oxidants from a reputable brand that tests for mercury levels

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