Omega-3s are likely something you’ve heard about before. Most commonly, they’re associated with fish. But what are they? And why do people take omega-3 supplements?
As it turns out, there are plenty of health benefits associated with omega-3s. From supporting heart health to vision, research indicates that omega-3s can support a variety of healthy functions within the body.
Studies are underway to determine whether omega-3s can help with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and ADHD. Here’s a look at the top benefits of omega-3s and how to ensure you’re getting plenty of them in your diet.
A deeper look at omega-3s
Omega-3 is a type of fat — or fatty acid, to be more specific. Three types of these fatty acids exist: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each has its own benefits, which include ALA lowering the chances of heart disease, EPAs lowering blood triglycerides, and DHA supporting brain health, for example.
Though they’re considered essential for health, you actually can’t make these acids on your own. So, that means you either need to eat foods with omega-3s (like certain fish or seafood) or find a quality supplement.
Major benefits of omega-3s
Omega-3s are important nutrients that pack a ton of health benefits. In general, studies indicate that people who regularly consume fish and seafood don’t have as high of a risk of developing a chronic health condition. While the verdict is still out on whether that’s all credited to the high omega-3 content in seafood, we can tie a few benefits to consuming omega-3s.
Promote a healthy heart
Omega-3s can be great for your heart. Studies have shown that people whose healthy diets include plenty of fatty fish and seafood have healthier hearts. In part, that’s likely because EPA and DHA keep triglyceride levels lower.
Help with vision
You’ve probably heard carrots are great for your vision, but did you know that omega-3s could be, too? That’s because these fatty acids may reduce the chances you’ll experience age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Plus, omega-3s may reduce symptoms caused by dry eye disease.
Manage pain from rheumatoid arthritis
People experiencing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could benefit from adding omega-3s to their traditional RA courses of treatment. Certain medical trials seem to show that RA patients who added omega-3s to their treatment plan ended up taking fewer pain meds.
Other benefits of omega-3s
The benefits of omega-3s aren’t just for adults. Babies in the womb and babies who are nursing may also reap the benefits of these fatty acids when their mothers consume between 8-12 ounces of fish weekly. Studies point to higher birth weights and measurements when babies are born, which could signal better health overall.
Current research is looking into other conditions that may also benefit from omega-3s. For instance, studies are underway on whether omega-3s benefit attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies in children, and cystic fibrosis. So far, no conclusions have been reached, but it’s certainly something to watch.
How to get plenty of omega-3s in your diet
You may be convinced that there are some health-related benefits to consuming omega-3s. But where do you get them?
Certain kinds of fish and seafood contain higher levels of omega-3s. For example, EPAs are generally found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, and shellfish. However, if you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to stay away from Atlantic mackerel and limit your intake of white albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces weekly. These types of fish could contain high levels of mercury, which you’ll want to avoid, especially while pregnant or nursing.
If seafood isn’t to your taste, you could always opt for an omega-3 or fish oil supplement. To avoid higher levels of mercury in your supplements, choose one that’s been tested for mercury or other heavy metals — email the brand if you’re not sure. Or give your doctor a call to help guide you to a healthy fish oil supplement to boost your intake of omega-3s.
The benefits of getting omega-3s in your diet are expansive. Omega-3 fatty acids can boost heart and eye health. They could also alleviate some of the symptoms of RA, and they may provide health benefits to babies in addition to adults. It’s definitely worthwhile to ensure you get plenty of omega-3s into your diet, whether through fatty fish or quality fish oil supplements. Ensure you speak with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet.