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By Helen West

Chia seeds are tiny yet extremely nutritious.

Just 2 tablespoons (1 oz) contain 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 137 calories (1).

They're a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and some minerals essential for bone health, including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Chia seeds are tiny yet extremely nutritious.Shutterstock

Chia seeds are also flavorless, making them easy to add to many foods and recipes.

This article shows you 35 fun and creative ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet.

1. Chia Water

One of the simplest ways to include chia seeds in your diet is to add them to water.

To make chia water, soak 1/4 cup (40 grams) of chia seeds in 4 cups (1 liter) of water for 20–30 minutes.

To give your drink some flavor, you can add chopped fruit or squeeze in a lemon, lime or orange.

2. Juice-Soaked Chia

Water isn't the only liquid you can soak these seeds in.

Add 1/4 cup (40 grams) of chia seeds to 4 cups of fruit juice (1 liter) for half an hour to make a fruit juice that's full of fiber and minerals.

3. Chia Pudding

You can make chia pudding similar to chia water. For a thicker pudding texture, add more chia seeds and let the mixture soak longer.

You can make this pudding with juice or milk and then include flavorings such as vanilla and cocoa like in this recipe.

Chia pudding makes a delicious dish that can be eaten for breakfast or as a dessert.

If you don't like the texture of the seeds in the pudding, try blending it to give it a smoother finish.

4. Chia in Smoothies

If you want to make your smoothie even more nutritious, then add some chia seeds.

You can add chia seeds to almost any smoothie recipe by soaking them to make chia gel before adding them to your favorite smoothie.

5. Raw Chia Toppings

Although many people prefer to soak chia seeds before they eat them, you can eat them raw too.

Try grinding them up and sprinkling them on your smoothie or oatmeal.

6. Chia Cereal

To try something a little different for breakfast, you could swap your usual cereal for chia cereal.

To make chia cereal, soak the seeds overnight in milk (or a milk substitute like almond milk) and top it with nuts, fruit or spices like cinnamon.

This recipe uses mashed banana, milk and vanilla extract to make a delicious morning treat.

7. Chia Truffles

If you're often in a hurry, you can use chia seeds to make a great on-the-go snack.

For a quick and easy homemade snack, try chia truffles like these.

These recipes are often "no bake," so they can be really quick and easy to make.

8. In a Stir Fry

You can also add chia seeds to savory dishes like stir fries.

Just add a tablespoon of seeds to your favorite stir-fry recipe, like this one.

9. Added to a Salad

Chia seeds can be added to your salad to give it some texture and a healthy boost.

The seeds can be added to any salad. Simply mix them in with your salad leaves and add your favorite salad vegetables.

10. In Salad Dressing

Another way to include chia in your salad is to add chia seeds to your salad dressing.

Commercially prepared salad dressings are often loaded with sugar. Making your own salad dressing can be a much healthier way to make your salad taste delicious.

Try this homemade lemon and chia dressing.

11. Baked in Bread

It's possible to add chia seeds to all sorts of recipes, including bread.

This recipe uses chia seeds with buckwheat to make a tasty, healthy bread.

12. As a Crispy Crumb Coating for Meat or Fish

Another fun way to use chia seeds is as a coating for meat and fish.

They can be ground up into a fine powder and mixed in with your usual bread crumb coating or used as a complete substitute, depending on your preference.

13. Baked in Cakes

Cakes are usually high in fat and sugar. However, adding chia seeds can help improve their nutritional profiles.

Adding chia seeds to your cake mix will boost the fiber, protein and omega-3 content.

14. Mixed with Other Grains

If you don't like the gooey texture of chia seeds, you can mix them with other grains.

You don't need a fancy recipe for this. Simply mix a tablespoon of seeds with a cup of rice or quinoa.

15. In Breakfast Bars

Breakfast bars can be very high in sugar. In fact, some cereal bars contain as much sugar as a candy bar.

However, cutting back on the sugar and making your own healthy bar is quite easy. Chia seeds can also make a nutritious addition to your recipe.

Have a look at this, as well as this one and this one for some chia breakfast bar inspiration.

16. In Pancakes

If you like pancakes then you could try adding chia seeds to your pancake mix.

There are some pancake recipe ideas here and here.

17. In Jam

Chia seeds can absorb ten times their dry weight in water, which makes them a great substitute for pectin in jam.

Pectin is quite bitter, so substituting pectin with chia seeds means that your jam won't need a lot of added sugar to make it taste sweet.

Better yet, chia jam is much easier to make than traditional jam. Try this blueberry and chia jam spread, with no refined sugar.

18. Baked in Cookies

If you love cookies, then chia seeds can give your cookie recipe a nutritional boost.

Try these oatmeal and chia cookies or these simple chocolate chia cookies.

19. Chia Protein Bars

Like breakfast bars, many commercially prepared protein bars can be high in refined sugar and look more like a candy bar than a healthy snack.

Making your own chia-based protein bar is a healthy alternative to the ones you can buy at the store.

There are even some low-carb friendly options, such as this one here.

20. In Soup or Gravy

Chia seeds can be a great replacement for flour when thickening stews or gravies.

Simply pre-soak the seeds to form a gel and mix it in to add thickness.

21. As an Egg Substitute

If your dietary requirements or preferences mean that you avoid eggs, then chia seeds can help. They make a fantastic substitute for eggs in baked goods.

To substitute for 1 egg, soak 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in 3 tablespoons of water.

22. Added to Dips

Chia seeds are versatile to cook with and can pretty much be added to any dip.

You can add them into homemade dip recipes like this one or you can stir them into your favorite store-bought version.

23. Baked in Homemade Muffins

Muffins are often eaten for breakfast or dessert, depending on their ingredients.

However, it doesn't matter if you're making a sweet or savory muffin, as chia seeds can be added into both.

24. In Oatmeal

Adding chia seeds to oatmeal is one way of eating them that requires very little effort.

Simply prepare your oatmeal and stir in a tablespoon of whole or ground chia seeds.

25. In Yogurt

Chia seeds can make a great yogurt topping.

If you like a bit of texture, sprinkle them on the top whole or if you want to avoid the crunch, then mix in ground chia seeds.

26. To Make Crackers

Adding seeds to crackers isn't a new idea. In fact, lots of crackers contain seeds to give them extra texture and crunch.

Adding chia seeds to your crackers is a good way to include them in your diet.

27. As a Thickener for Homemade Burgers and Meatballs

If you use eggs or breadcrumbs to bind and thicken meatballs and burgers, you could consider trying chia seeds instead.

Try using 2 tablespoons of seeds per pound of meat in your usual meatball recipe.

28. As a Homemade Energy Gel

Athletes looking for a homemade alternative to commercially produced energy gels could consider using a chia alternative.

You can buy chia seed-based gels or make your own using a recipe like this one.

29. Added to Tea

Adding chia seeds to drinks is an easy way to include them in your diet.

Add a teaspoon into your tea and let them soak for a short time. Initially they might float, but eventually they should sink.

30. To Make Tortillas

Soft tortillas can be eaten with a variety of fillings and are a delicious way to enjoy chia seeds.

You can make your own like these or some stores carry them pre-made.

31. In Ice Cream or Ice Cream Pops

Chia seeds can also be added to your favorite treats like ice cream.

You can blend and freeze chia puddings to make a smooth ice cream like this one or freeze them on sticks like this for a dairy-free alternative to ice cream.

32. To Make a Pizza Base

Chia seeds can be used to make a high-fiber, slightly crunchy pizza crust.

Simply make a chia seed-based dough like this one and add your toppings.

33. To Make Falafel

Falafel made with chia seeds can be a delicious and fun way to cook with chia seeds, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

You can combine them with a variety of vegetables for flavor. Try this recipe.

34. In Homemade Granola

Making granola is really simple. You can use any mixture of seeds, nuts and oats you like. This easy recipe includes chia seeds.

If you don't have time to make your own granola, there are plenty of chia seed-based granolas you can buy.

35. In Homemade Lemonade

Another interesting way to drink chia seeds is in homemade lemonade.

Soak 1.5 tablespoons (20 grams) of the seeds in 2 cups (480 ml) of cold water for a half hour. Then add the juice from one lemon and the sweetener of your choice.

You can also experiment with adding extra flavors like cucumber and watermelon.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

We now need to eat two portions of farmed salmon to equal the amount of omega-3 intake that we would have gotten just five years ago, says a study from Stirling University in Scotland. The change appears to be due to a reduction in the amount of ground-up anchovies added to their feed.

Farm-raised and wild caught salmon contain the same amount of cholesterol, but wild salmon have half the fat of farmed in a typical half-filet serving.

Salmon farming is only about four decades old, but it is the fastest-growing food production system in the world according to WWF. Globally, about 3.5 million tons are caught or raised each year, and salmon accounts for 17 percent of the global seafood trade. About 70 percent of the world's salmon production is farmed.

Salmon is among the most popular seafoods in the U.S., where we eat 2.3 pounds per person each year. We prize salmon for its omega-3 fatty acids. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that consumption of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are key omega-3s found in seafood, may help to prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, clinical depression, anxiety and macular degeneration. Of the salmon consumed in the U.S., half is farm-raised.

Wild catch vs. farm-raised seafoodMarine Harvest

NOAA also states that farmed seafood is safe and healthy to eat, but many have questions about the practice. Crowded conditions in the pens used for raising salmon provide an ideal breeding ground for sea lice, which are now invading wild Alaskan salmon populations. Sea lice can be lethal to juvenile pink and chum salmon. In farms in some parts of the world, a pesticide is used to combat sea lice that is toxic to marine life and banned by both the European Union and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The greatest concern, though, centers around interbreeding of farmed and wild salmon. In September, a study by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans found that more than 750,000 salmon have escaped from fish farms in Newfoundland since aquaculture began, and that these fish are breeding with wild salmon and producing offspring. A separate study in Norway found that half the wild salmon tested had genetic material from farmed fish. It's unclear which traits might impose themselves on wild salmon, but farm-raised fish are bred to grow big and to grow fast.

Farm-raised and wild caught salmon contain the same amount of cholesterol, but wild salmon have half the fat of farmed in a typical half-filet serving. Farmed fish also deliver three times the saturated fat as wild. But to feed a growing global population and provide the omega-3s they need, wild fisheries may not be up to the job.

On the West Coast of North America, salmon are in trouble. The number of endangered or threatened salmon runs on the Columbia River system has jumped from four to 13. In British Columbia, the sockeye salmon run this year was the lowest ever seen. Alaska's pink salmon catch is the worst it has been in 40 years.

Farmed salmon can still be ecologically friendly. According to WWF, it takes 10 to 12 pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef, but less than two pounds to yield a pound of salmon. Recognizing the need for fish farming, WWF worked to create global standards for salmon aquaculture designed to address the worst impacts. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) now manages the standards and provides a certification program that retailers and consumers can use to ensure they are buying responsibly-farmed salmon.

The standards require farms to minimize diseases and the occurrence of sea lice while limiting the use of medicines to a set of strict conditions. Farms are also required to monitor and control water quality and prevent fish escapes as much as possible. The ASC also limits use of wild fish as feed, which is now seen to be responsible for reducing omega-3 levels in farmed salmon.

"We, and many others, are working very hard at developing new sustainable alternatives to fish oil and fish meal as sources of these long-chain omega-3s," wrote Dr. Douglas Tocher, one of the authors of the study, in an email to EcoWatch. "These include microalgal sources and genetically-modified oilseed crops."

The U.S. imports 91 percent of the seafood it consumes. Currently, oysters, clams and mussels account for tho-thirds of farmed seafood produced in the U.S., but NOAA opened up the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico to fish farms in January. That's the first time federal waters have been available for fish farming. So far, no commercial proposals have been received.

The World Bank estimates that almost two-thirds of the fish we eat in 2030 will be farm-raised. "Aquaculture will be an essential part of the solution to global food security," said Jim Anderson, bank advisor on fisheries, aquaculture and oceans for the World Bank Group. "We expect the aquaculture industry to improve its practices in line with expectations from the market for sustainable and responsibly produced seafood."

Aquaculture may also be the only answer to overfishing of the seas. Almost one third of global fish stocks are overfished, according to the United Nations. WWF says that stocks of all current food species of fish could collapse by 2048. But we'll need to feed 9 billion people by then.

"The solutions are very much in the pipeline," wrote Dr. Tocher. "Farmed salmon still deliver more omega-3 than wild salmon. And there is also absolutely no harm In eating two portions of farmed salmon."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Sharon Moalem, MD, PHD

Although fats have been vilified for years, if you know the right ones to eat, you can lose abdominal or belly fat, decrease joint pain, lower your triglycerides and even decrease your risk for breast cancer.

What's important to remember is that all fats are also very energy dense at 9 kilocalories per gram, whereas both carbohydrates and proteins are less so at 4 kilocalories per gram. Proteins require more energy for your body to break down, so they are actually the least energy dense as well as being very good at keeping you feeling full for longer. It's important for you to understand why you need to remove certain fats from your diet, because it's going to be one of the most crucial components to reversing and preventing processes involved in genetic aging.

Because not all fats are created equal, it's important to understand their differences so that you'll make the best dietary choices.

Here's what you need to know:

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)

Shutterstock

Monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs, are a prime reason why olives are revered for their health benefits. Olive oil is an example of a plant-derived source of fat that's very rich in MUFAs, at around 75 percent. It's a good source of omega-9s, particularly oleic acid (also found in macadamia nuts), which helps lower LDL cholesterol.

Technically speaking, olives are a fruit. And the amount of MUFAs doesn't vary much among the three main grades of olive oil: extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and olive oil. But there are very significant differences among them. Extra-virgin olive oil is considered the highest grade and the lowest grade is simply called olive oil, which is in principle a seed oil, since it's derived from the olive pit.

Only extra-virgin olive oil is derived purely from the flesh of the olive without using any chemicals or heat. Because of that, when a bottle is labeled "virgin" or "olive oil," you are to avoid it. Another thing that differs significantly among the grades of olive oil is the amount of phytonutrients from the 230 different compounds that have been identified. These include phenolic compounds, triterpenes and phytosterols. These phytonutrients are actually found in much higher concentrations within higher grades of olive oil and can lower elevated inflammatory markers that I mentioned earlier (IL-1B and IL-6), which is obviously very good for your genes and overall health.

But the level of phytonutrients can also vary among varieties of olives, where they're grown and even between seasons from the exact same farm. As olive oil is increasingly processed, the quality of the oil itself decreases along with degrading the important phytonutrients it once contained.

To increase the amount of phytonutrients that reverse genetic aging for the same amount of energy or calories, go for only the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil. It's important to always store all of your oils away from extraneous light and air, so opt for opaque bottles that seal well to make sure your oil doesn't oxidize or become rancid, losing many of its health properties. And remember, paying more for a genetically healthful product is an investment in your genetic health for decades to come. It's so worth it.

MUFAs are also found in other foods such as certain nuts, as well as avocados and certain seed oils.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)

Shutterstock

Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) have a much better track record for improving your potential for genetic health, while other PUFAs, such as arachidonic acid (AA), promote genetic aging largely by increasing inflammation.

Your body cannot produce some PUFAs on its own and these are called essential fatty acids. PUFAs play a very important role in both disease prevention and progression. Diets that are rich in certain omega-3 PUFAs such as ALA, DHA and EPA have all been connected with lower incidences of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3s and omega-6s are not fixed end products, as your body has the genetics to use complex biochemistry to convert different PUFAs within the same family group because they all have somewhat different functions. An example of this would be linoleic acid (an omega-6 PUFA), which can be turned into arachidonic acid (another omega-6 PUFA) by the body. Linoleic acid was initially thought to be a cause of inflammation that's associated with cardiovascular disease, but that's now being questioned because many of the studies used linoleic acid sourced from trans fat margarine.

Even though your body can make DHA and EPA, it doesn't seem to be so great at it, which is why you should get as much as you can from your diet. The best source of DHA and EPA is often fish, which is why they're often called marine omega-3s.

But it's important to remember that both omega-3s and omega-6s are needed for your body to function optimally. Unfortunately, because so many of the farmed fish and animals people are consuming today are being fed diets that are high in omega-6s, when we eat them, we end up with an extra dose. That's too much omega-6.

An easy way to move the balance in the omega-3 direction is to use some ground flaxseed or its oil, since it's a great source of ALA as well.

Adapted from The DNA Restart. This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Rodale Wellness.

By Adda Bjarnadottir

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the most important omega-3 fatty acids. Like most omega-3 fats, it's linked with many health benefits.

It is a part of every cell in your body, plays a vital role in your brain and is absolutely crucial during pregnancy and infancy. Since your body can't produce it in adequate amounts, it's essential to get it from your diet.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is one of the most important omega-3 fatty acids.Photo credit: Shutterstock

This article explains everything you need to know about DHA.

What is DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)?

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid.

It's 22 carbons long, has 6 double bonds and is mainly found in seafood, such as fish, shellfish, fish oils and some types of algae.

It's a component of every cell in your body and a vital structural component of your skin, eyes and brain (1, 2, 3, 4).

In fact, DHA makes up more than 90 percent of the omega-3 fatty acids in your brain and up to 25 percent of its total fat content (3, 5).

Technically, it can be synthesized from another plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). However, this process is very inefficient and only 0.1–0.5 percent of ALA is converted into DHA in your body (6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

What's more, the conversion also relies on adequate levels of other vitamins and minerals, as well as the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in your diet (11, 12, 13).

Because your body can't make DHA in significant amounts, you need to get it from your diet or supplements.

Bottom Line: DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is vital for your skin, eyes and brain. Your body can't produce it in adequate amounts, so you need to get it from your diet.

How Does it Work?

DHA is an unsaturated fatty acid with 6 double bonds. This means it's very flexible.

It's mainly located in cell membranes, where it makes the membranes and gaps between cells more fluid (14).

This makes it easier for cells to send and receive electrical signals, which is their way of communicating (15).

Therefore, adequate levels of DHA seem to make it easier, quicker and more efficient for cells to communicate.

Having low levels in your brain or eyes may slow the signaling between cells, resulting in poor eyesight or altered brain function.

Bottom Line: DHA makes the membranes and gaps between cells more fluid, making it easier for cells to communicate.

Top Food Sources of DHA

DHA is mainly found in seafood, such as fish, shellfish and algae.

Several types of fish are excellent sources, providing up to several grams per serving (16).

These include:

  • Mackerel.
  • Herring.
  • Sardines.
  • Caviar.

Some fish oils, such as cod liver oil, can provide as much as 1 gram of DHA in one tablespoon (10–15 ml) (17).

Just keep in mind that fish oils may also be high in vitamin A, which can be harmful in large amounts.

DHA may also be present in small amounts in meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, as well as omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs.

However, it may be hard to get enough from your diet alone. So if you don't regularly eat the foods mentioned above, taking a supplement may be a good idea.

Bottom Line: DHA is mostly found in fatty fish, shellfish, fish oils and algae. Grass-fed meat, dairy and omega-3 enriched eggs may also contain small amounts.

Effects on the Brain

DHA is the most abundant omega-3 in your brain and plays a critical role in its development and function.

Brain levels of other omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA, are typically 250–300 times lower (3, 4,18).

It Plays a Major Role in Brain Development

DHA is extremely important for brain tissue growth and function, especially during development and infancy (19, 20).

It needs to accumulate in the central nervous system in order for the eyes and brain to develop normally (3, 4).

DHA intake during the third trimester of pregnancy determines the baby's levels, with the greatest accumulation occurring in the brain during the first few months of life (3).

DHA is mainly found in the gray matter of the brain and the frontal lobes are particularly dependent on it during development (21, 22).

These parts of the brain are responsible for processing information, memories and emotions. They are also important for sustained attention, planning and problem solving, as well as social, emotional and behavioral development (4, 5, 23).

In animals, decreased DHA in a developing brain leads to a reduced amount of new nerve cells and altered nerve function. It also impairs learning and eyesight (24).

In humans, DHA deficiency in early life has been associated with learning disabilities, ADHD, aggressive hostility and several other disorders (25, 26).

Furthermore, studies have linked low levels in the mother to an increased risk of poor visual and neural development in the child (3, 24, 27).

Studies have shown that babies of mothers who consumed 200 mg per day from the 24th week of pregnancy until delivery had improvements in vision and problem solving (3, 28).

Bottom Line: DHA is essential for brain and eye development. A deficiency in early life is linked to learning disabilities, ADHD and other disorders.

It May Have Benefits for the Aging Brain

DHA is also critical for healthy brain aging (29, 30, 31, 32).

There are many factors that come naturally with brain aging, such as oxidative stress, altered energy metabolism and DNA damage (33, 34, 35).

The structure of the brain also changes, which reduces its size, weight and fat content (36, 37).

Interestingly, many of these changes are also seen when DHA levels decrease.

This includes altered membrane properties, decreased performance in memory tasks, altered enzyme activity and altered neuron function (38, 39, 40, 41, 42).

Taking a supplement may help. DHA supplements have been linked to significant improvements in memory, learning and verbal fluency for those with mild memory complaints (43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48).

Bottom Line: A DHA deficiency may disrupt brain function. Supplements may improve memory, learning and verbal fluency for certain people.

Low Levels Are Linked to Brain Diseases

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in older people.

It affects about 4.4 percent of adults over 65 and impacts brain function, mood and behavior (49, 50).

Changes in episodic memory are among the earliest signs of brain changes in older adults. This refers to difficulty recalling events that occurred at a specific time and place (44, 51, 52, 53).

Interestingly, Alzheimer's disease patients have been shown to have lower amounts of DHA in the brain and liver, while EPA and DPA levels are elevated (54, 55).

Studies show that higher blood DHA levels are linked to a reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's (56).

Bottom Line: Low DHA levels are linked to an increased risk of developing memory complaints, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Effects on Eyes and Vision

DHA is a very important membrane component in the eye. It helps activate a protein called rhodopsin, a membrane protein in the rods of the eye.

Rhodopsin helps your brain receive images from your eyes by altering permeability, fluidity, thickness and other properties inside the eye (57, 58).

A DHA deficiency can cause vision problems, especially in children (3, 24, 27).

Therefore, baby formula is now generally fortified with it, which is an effective way to help prevent vision impairment in babies (59, 60).

Bottom Line: DHA is important for vision and various functions inside the eye. A deficiency may cause vision problems in children.

Effects on Heart Health

Omega-3 fatty acids have generally been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Low levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death and some (but not all) supplement studies have shown that omega-3s reduce the risk (61, 62, 63, 64).

This applies especially to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and fish oils, such as EPA and DHA.

Their intake can improve many risk factors for heart disease, including:

  • Blood triglycerides: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may reduce blood triglycerides by up to 30 percent (65, 66, 67, 68, 69).
  • Blood pressure: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils and fatty fish may reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (70, 71, 72).
  • Cholesterol levels: Fish oils and omega-3s may lower total cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels (73, 74, 75).

Bottom Line: DHA may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood triglycerides and blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and protecting against endothelial dysfunction.

Other Health Benefits

DHA may also protect against the development of other diseases, including:

  • Arthritis: It reduces inflammation in the body and may alleviate the pain and inflammation in the joints of people with arthritis (80, 81).
  • Cancer: It may make it more difficult for cancer cells to survive. It may also cause them to die via programmed cell death (82, 83, 84, 85, 86).
  • Asthma: It may reduce asthma symptoms, possibly by blocking mucus secretion and reducing blood pressure (87, 88, 89).

Bottom Line: DHA may also help with conditions like arthritis and asthma, as well as prevent the growth of cancer cells.

DHA is Especially Important During Pregnancy, Lactation and Childhood

DHA is critical during the last months of pregnancy and early in a baby's life.

Babies up to the age of two have a greater need for it than older children and adults (3, 90, 91).

Their brains are growing rapidly and need high amounts of DHA to form vital cell membrane structures in the brain and eyes (3, 92).

Therefore, DHA intake can dramatically affect brain development (27, 93).

Animal studies show that DHA-deficient diets during pregnancy, lactation and weaning limit the supply to the infant's brain to only about 20 percent of normal levels (94).

Deficiency is associated with changes in brain function, including learning disabilities, changes in gene expression and impaired vision (24).

Bottom Line: During pregnancy and early life, DHA is vital for the formation of structures in the brain and eyes.

How Much DHA Do You Need?

Most guidelines for healthy adults recommend at least 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day (95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100).

Studies show the average DHA intake is closer to 100 mg per day (101, 102, 103).

Children up to the age of two may need 4.5–5.5 mg/lb (10–12 mg/kg) of body weight, while older children may need up to 250 mg per day (104).

Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are advised to get at least 200 mg of DHA or 300–900 mg of combined EPA and DHA, per day (93, 97).

People with mild memory complaints or cognitive impairments may benefit from 500–1,700 mg of DHA per day to improve brain function (43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48).

Vegetarians and vegans are often lacking in DHA and should consider taking microalgae supplements that contain DHA (11, 105).

DHA supplements are usually safe. However, taking more than 2 grams a day does not have any added benefits and is not recommended (106, 107, 108).

Interestingly, curcumin—the active compound in turmeric—may enhance DHA absorption in the body. It's linked with many health benefits and animal studies have shown that it may boost DHA levels in the brain (109, 110).

Therefore, curcumin may be helpful when supplementing with DHA.

Bottom Line: Adults should get 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily, while children should get 4.5–5.5 mg/lb (10–12 mg/kg) of body weight.

Considerations and Adverse Effects

DHA supplements are usually well tolerated, even in large doses.

However, omega-3s are generally anti-inflammatory and may thin the blood (111).

Consequently, too much omega-3 may cause blood thinning or excessive bleeding.

If you are planning surgery, you should stop supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids a week or two beforehand.

Also make sure to speak with a doctor before taking omega-3s if you have a blood clotting disorder or take blood thinning medication.

Bottom Line: Like other omega-3 fatty acids, DHA may cause blood thinning. You should avoid taking omega-3 supplements 1-2 weeks before surgery.

Take Home Message

DHA is a vital part of every cell in your body, especially the cells in your brain and eyes.

It's also an essential part of brain development and function. What's more, it may affect the speed and quality of communication between nerve cells.

Furthermore, DHA is important for your eyes and it may reduce many risk factors for developing heart disease.

If you suspect you're not getting enough in your diet, consider taking an omega-3 supplement. It is one of the few supplements that may actually be worth the money.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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