Omega-3 Fatty Acids: What are they? Do you really need them?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: What are they? Do you really need them?

Omega-3 fatty acids mostly come from oily fish. However, it also comes from some types of vegetables and oils. Omega-3 supplements have also hit the market and proven quite popular. Eating two portions of this type of fish leaves you with healthy blood pressure. It keeps your blood lipids within safe and healthy levels too. Eventually, the more you continue consuming omega-3 the more you reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

So, what are omega-3 fatty acids?

They are essential fats the body needs yet cannot get from normal sources of fats. Most diets contain three kinds of omega-3 fats. These three types are as follows:

  1. ALA
  2. EPA
  3. DHA

ALA is short for alpha-linolenic acid, which refers to omega-3 fatty acids derived from plants.

EPA refers to eicosapentaenoic acid.

DHA refers to docosahexaenoic acid.

EPA and DHA are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Their reputation for reducing the risk of exposure to stroke and heart diseases is unmatched. Where EPA and DHA prove impossible to obtain and include in diet, the body will often have to convert ALA to DHA. However, the process of converting ALA to DHA is not as efficient as it should be. Therefore, it is better to focus on dietary sources rather than relying on the body to perform the conversion.

What are the main sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

As earlier indicated, omega-3 fatty acids mostly come from oily fish, which include:

  • Trout
  • Kippers
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Whitebait
  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • Pilchards
  • Sprats
  • Salmon

Watch out before taking any of these types of oily fish though. For example, pregnant women should avoid marlins, swordfish, and sharks. The mercury and PCBs contained in these types of fish may not augur well during pregnancy. A few types of white fish are also renowned for the generous amount of omega-3 fatty acids they provide. In this case, the types of white fish you should consume to obtain all the omega-3 essential fats you need include:

  • Flounder
  • Plaice
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Coley
  • Dover sole
  • Dab

What about omega-3 supplements? Are they worth the hassle?

As much as possible, try to obtain your omega-3 fatty acids from foods. The guidelines governing the use and intake of supplements are not as topnotch as they should be. That said, any person who opts to take the supplements should choose them carefully. The ideal supplement is the one derived from omega-3 fish oil. Avoid supplements derived from fish liver oil. Use the right supplement based on your age too.

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