You have probably heard of the many health benefits of a diet that includes fish. One of the biggest reasons that fish gets such an excellent reputation for promoting health is because it tends to be a great source of a vital nutrient called Omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids get a lot of attention from both the media and the scientific community, for good reason. These fats are known to promote our overall health, and are found in cell membranes within the body, where they have a positive impact on signal pathways and cellular health.
Omega-3 is a type of fatty acid that is found in many kinds of fish, nuts, plant oils, and many nutritional supplements. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), alphalinolenic acid (ALA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA, which can be found in foods like canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and chia seeds, is an essential fatty acid. That means the body needs to get it from food because it can’t produce it on its own. DHA and EPA are known as long-chain omega-3s and are both found in foods like fatty fish, tuna, sardines, and other types of seafood.
All three types of omega-3s are considered “healthy fats” because they are not shown to promote atherosclerosis, which has been associated with heart disease. Omega-3s can help support the development of the eyes and brain, and help promote good joint function. Of the many overall health benefits that come with consuming omega-3s, one of the most popular is its potential to provide cardiovascular benefits. Studies show that Omega-3s can help promote healthy vascular function, as well as have positive effects on the metabolic and endocrine systems. EPA and DHA have been primarily studied for their impact on lipid levels. A 2012 meta-analysis of 11 different studies shows that omega-3 supplementation could reduce triglyceride levels, while another meta-analysis of 4 studies showed it could significantly reduce triglyceride concentrations.
The typical dose of DHA and EPA in most omega-3 studies ranges between 1000 mg to 5000 mg a day. To reach that level of intake through diet, you would need to consume large amounts of fatty fish, seeds, nuts, and other food containing omega-3s. For many people, it is too difficult to include these amounts in their regular diet, or they may not like the taste of salmon and tuna. In that case, supplements containing omega-3s in the form of fish or algal oil capsules can be added to a healthy diet. These supplements have varying amounts of both DHA and EPA, and typically contain cod liver oil or krill oil, although there are vegetarian versions available. ALA is also available as a supplement, but it’s found in many plant products like soybeans, and a variety of nuts and seeds. If you are concerned that you aren’t getting enough omega-3s, check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are getting the right amount.