Health Benefits of Omega-3s + 3 Best Sources
The health benefits of Omega-3s are widely known as it is one the most-researched in the health supplement world, and there are a variety of ways to get this nutrient into your daily diet.
Omega-3s are essential for human health, according to research by the University of Maryland Medical Center, but many of us lack these critical nutrients (1).
According to current research, omega-3s have a key role in brain function and are also vital for normal growth and development.
Ongoing research suggests that omega-3s are more important to our overall health than previously understood. However, our bodies don’t create these fatty acids.
The only way to introduce these nutrients into the human body is via food or supplementation, so it’s possible that many of us are missing out on the essential benefits.
Including fatty acids in your diet might sound counterintuitive, since the name includes the term “fat.” But fatty acids are actually healthy fats that contribute to brain and organ health, among other things.
In this article, we are going to talk specifically about Omega-3 fatty acids, their health benefits, and what the best sources are.
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are part of the polyunsaturated fat family. The number 3 in the name comes from the existence of three main fatty acids.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come from fish.
The third type of fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid, ALA, which comes from vegetable oils and nuts and other non-marine sources.
The University of Maryland’s article on the topic explains that while EPA and DHA are present in fish, the human body has to convert ALA sources into EPA and DHA. For most people, they note, this isn’t an issue (1).
However, some people do not efficiently convert ALA into EPA and DHA, so vegetarian sources of omega-3s may not be useful for those populations.
What Are the Health Benefits of Consuming Omega-3s?
In general, omega-3s assist essential brain function. But studies have found that they can also fight off depression and anxiety.
One such review found that a study which administered EPA to patients with recurrent major depression resulted in positive benefits by the third week of treatment (2).
Another study in the review found that children treated with EPA saw “highly significant effects” in all three rating scales utilized. The third study showed a reduction in clinical depression scores within one month of treatment.
None of the three total studies reviewed showed a single negative side effect, suggesting that more research can help in developing ways to combat depression through dietary supplementation.
Some of the health benefits of omega-3s according to :
- Reduction of high cholesterol
- Lowering of high blood pressure
- Prevention of heart disease
- Reduced diabetic symptoms
- Easing of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
- Reduced symptoms of lupus erythematosus
- Increased bone strength/treatment of osteoporosis
- Potential to reduce bipolar disorder symptoms
- Potential improvement in schizophrenia symptoms
- Treatment of ADHD
- Reduced risk of cognitive decline
- Reduction of skin disorder symptoms
- Prevention of breast and other cancers
For a detailed explanation of the ability of omega-3s to prevent breast cancer, see Dr. Saputo’s video on the topic below. He discusses the results of a Canadian study that proved omega-3s inhibit the growth of tumors and can even reduce their size.
While the study used mice as test subjects, the results prove promising for the future of cancer treatment in people.
American Pregnancy Association reports improved brain health of fetuses during pregnancy and a baby’s early life. Based on multiple studies that defined these benefits, many infant formulas now contain DHA.
Beyond nutritional perks, omega-3s also help maintain healthy skin through managing oil production, hydration, and preventing hyper keratinization of hair follicles.
These beneficial fatty acids may also relieve menstrual pain, plus improve sleep for both adults and children. Consumption of omega-3s also correlates with reduced asthma in children, as Authority Nutrition notes.
However, despite the positive benefits of fish oil for children in supervised studies, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises against dosing children with fish oil supplements without doctor supervision.
Food Sources with the Most Omega-3s
The best source of omega-3s is food in its pure form. The top three sources of omega-3s come from seafood, specifically fish.
According to Seafood Health Facts, herring, farmed and wild salmon, and wild Pacific and Jack mackerel all contain upwards of 1500 milligrams of omega-3s per three-ounce portion.
Our favorite source is wild Alaskan salmon! You can get it very inexpensively at many grocery stores in the frozen section. Trader Joe’s has the best price we’ve seen!
With 1000 to 1500 milligrams per three-ounce portion, canned salmon, canned Jack mackerel and Atlantic and Spanish wild mackerel, and wild bluefin tuna rank next on the list.
Other fish such as a handful of wild salmon varieties, sardines, tuna, swordfish, and trout contain anywhere from 500 to 1000 milligrams of omega-3s per serving. This amount still meets health organizations’ recommendations for 250 to 500 milligrams per day.
For patients with coronary heart disease, however, Seafood Health Facts notes that the American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams per day or more.
Beyond the main categories of fish, many other varieties also contain 200 to 500 milligrams of essential fatty acids, so consuming these fish dishes weekly will easily earn you the recommended daily value of omega-3s.
In addition to direct fish sources, concentrated cod liver oil is another way to consume omega-3s. This is an easier way to ensure dosage of the fatty acids without sourcing mercury-free fish to eat weekly.
Our favorite brand is Norwegian Cod Liver Oil and we recommend getting it in the lemon flavor because it makes the taste quite pleasant!
You can check out Norwegian Cod Liver Oil on Amazon here.
Finally, nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils also contain omega-3s, though in smaller amounts than animal or seafood sources.
Other Sources of Omega-3s
For those who avoid animal products, are pregnant and want to avoid mercury, or who simply don’t like seafood, other sources of omega-3s contribute the same health benefits when consumed regularly.
According to WebMD, levels of DHA and EPA omega-3s are highest in different types of fish, but ALA occurs in walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
Reader’s Digest lists canola oil and flaxseed among its list of high-omega-3 foods, along with wild rice, eggs, soybeans, and enriched dairy foods. Even for those with strict dietary needs or preferences, or an aversion to seafood, omega-3s are an attainable nutrition boost.
Overall, foods that contain omega-3s are high in calories, so be sure to balance your diet with other nutrient-dense and low-fat foods to reap the greatest health benefits.
If you are unable to get in enough omega-3s in your diet from eating the fish listed above 2-3x per week, the next best thing that you can do besides the cod liver oil is to grab a good omega-3 supplement.
Dr. Tobias Triple Strength Omega-3 Fish Oil Pills is one of the best brands on the market and is the one that we personally take and recommend to all of our clients on our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge.
It’s a good idea to take the supplements above on days that you don’t have a good fish source in your diet!
If you liked this article on the health benefits of omega-3s or have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below!
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