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When it comes to fats, it’s becoming common knowledge that they are not the villainous foes we all thought. Fats are good for us and, if you haven’t heard, eating them can even help you lose weight. However, as the world of fats becomes gracefully demystified, you may begin to develop even more questions. One often discussed yet mysterious fat is omega-3 fatty acids—they’re fantastic for your health, but do you know why?
Why Are Omega-3s So Great?
Omega-3s boast incredible benefits in the body. They act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents when present in balanced levels. Unfortunately, our diets tend to be too heavy on omega-6s (found in vegetable oils), with the average Westerner consuming 15 servings of omega-6 for every 1 serving of omega-3s. A more beneficial, health promoting ratio lies around 6:1 or lower, which means consuming more omega-3s and limiting omega-6 intake. Proper omega-3 consumption can encourage lower blood triglycerides, reduce the risk of many cancers, reduce the severity of depression symptoms and the onset of cognitive decline, improve baby development and reduce ADHD symptoms, among a myriad of other wonders!
What Types of Omega-3s are There?
There are, fittingly, three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA and ALA. EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been found beneficial in fighting mental conditions such as depression. DHA is a structural component of cell membranes and makes up 40 percent of the brain’s polyunsaturated fats. DHA is particularly important during and after pregnancy, as DHA is integral in the development of the nervous system. ALA is the omega-3 found mainly in fatty plant sources. Although it’s more common in our diets, ALA must be converted into EPA or DHA in order to be functional in the body. This process is extremely inefficient with little yield, so ALA is not the ideal source of omega-3s.
Where Can You Get Them?
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids must be consumed through a healthy diet; the body does not create its own. The most potent sources are salmon, fish oil, sardines and anchovies, which contain EPA and DHA. There are also vegan sources, such as flax, chia, hemp, soybeans and walnuts, which are filled with ALA. Unfortunately, ALA is ineffective as the sole source of omega-3s in the body. Luckily, supplements, even vegan ones, are easy to find.
Are Supplements Just as Effective?
Unless you’re consuming fatty seafood on a weekly basis, supplements are an excellent way to boost your omega-3 intake. Those who eat seafood can get balanced supplements filled with EPA and DHA sourced from fish oil and krill oil. Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy a high DHA supplement made from algae. In fact, fish source their own omega-3s from algae, so algal oil is an incredibly potent (and sustainable) source. Regardless of your dietary preferences, there is a supplement that can suit your omega-3 needs. The most important thing is that you’re getting a balanced intake of this essential, super powerful fatty acid.
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