Omega-3 fatty acids are vital in the development of the brain and the body. This because of their various benefits. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet has led to many health organizations recommending that adults take a minimum of 250-500mg of omega-3s in their diet.
While most of us turn to supplements to cover our basic daily requirements of omega-3 fatty acids, various type of easily available foods are high in this nutrient.
What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Many types of fish such as mackerel and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods that are naturally packed with omega 3 are flax seeds, soybeans, oyster, and walnuts.
There are three main types of fatty acids. These are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mainly present in plant oils like flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are present in fish and various seafood.
Many types of fish such as mackerel and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods with high amounts of omega 3 are flax seeds, soybeans, oyster, and walnuts.
Health benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Before we start increasing our intake of any nutrient, it is always good to know about their exact benefits. Here you’ll find a list of 14 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids which will surely help you know more about them and encourage you to increase their intake.
Improved eye health and vision
An omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is a major structural component of your eyes’ retinas. It makes up 60% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids of your eye.
When a person does not get enough DHA, vision problems may arise. Therefore, an increased intake of omega-3s may help prevent macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness.
Omega-3 also helps prevent dry eye and increases the drainage of intraocular fluid. This helps in preventing glaucoma by reducing the risk of high pressures inside the eye.
Reduced symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Central obesity, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, low good cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides are all symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
The result of increased belly fat and all of the above symptoms leads to an increased risk of many other illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help combat these problems by reducing inflammation, improving insulin resistance and decreasing the risk of heart diseases.
May help prevent Cancer
In the past century, cancer has become one of the leading causes of death in the Western world and has led to an alarming increase in health costs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the nutrients which have been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
While the use of the nutrient may not prevent all cancers, colon cancer is one such disease which can be prevented with regular use of omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acid metabolism activates the body’s endocannabinoid system – the body’s own painkilling system, which helps fight cancer by reducing inflammation.
Additionally, the consumption of the nutrient can lead to a lower risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men in some instances.
Anxiety is a prevalent disorder which is characterized by a constant feeling of nervousness and worry which in turn leads to many other issues.
Most adults these days are suffering from anxiety. This leads to impaired performance both at work and at home. Anxiety is one of the leading causes of decreased productivity worldwide.
The use of omega-3 supplements can improve the symptoms of anxiety and help individuals get more confident in their daily life.
While being anxious is something that can never be completely cured without therapy, omega-3 fatty acids can help tone down the symptoms to a great extent.
As one of the most common mental disorders in the world, depression has a great effect on almost every household.
The symptoms of depression include lethargy, sadness, mental weakness, and a loss of interest in worldly things.
Depression has a consequence on every relationship, be it work related or personal. It causes decreased work efficiency and an increased economic burden.
Many studies have been carried out which have proven that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed.
This has proven to be almost life saving for many individuals who can turn to this nutrient to improve their mental and physical health.
Improves Mental Disorders
It has been reported that people with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3 fats.
As low omega-3 levels can cause psychiatric disorders, studies have shown that increased usage of omega-3 supplements can significantly decrease the frequency of mood swings in people who have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Omega -3 fatty acids have also shown to play a beneficiary role in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Combined with this, omega-3 can also prove to decrease abnormal and violent behavior while promoting healthier behavior in an individual.
Reduce the risk of Asthma
Does your child have asthma? Then omega-3 fatty acids are probably what they need.
Symptoms of shortness of breath, congestion, coughing, and wheezing are all related to chronic lung disease known as asthma.
Severe asthma attacks can be extremely dangerous, and even cause death in some instances. This is the result of swelling and inflammation in the airways of one’s lungs.
Numerous studies have shown that a good intake of omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of asthma in children and young adults.
Relieve menstrual pain
When menstrual pain hits, it hits badly. The most common area where menstrual pain occurs is in your pelvis, lower abdomen, which in turn radiates to your lower back and thighs.
Most people take pain killers to combat menstrual pain, but omega-3 is a much better way to fight it. Pain killers are a reactive method, whereas omega-3s are proactive. Women experience milder menstrual pain when they consume adequate omega-3s.
By taking foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and supplements of the nutrient, women can treat the severe pain related to menstruation much better than they can with the use of ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Omega-3 fatty acids aid in good night’s sleep and help a person stay active and healthy.
Sleep deprivation is the cause of many terrible diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, depression, and eating disorders.
Studies show that lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids may cause obstructive sleep apnea in adults and sleep-related problems in children.
The hormone melatonin is one which helps you fall asleep, and lower levels of the hormone are linked to low levels of DHA. Once a person increases their intake of omega-3, the length, and quality of their sleep immediately increase. This has been found valid in cases of both adults and children.
Develops brain health during pregnancy and infancy
With an increased intake of the nutrient, you can do a great favor to your children.
Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to have a great value in the growth and development of the brain in infants. It is also extremely beneficial during pregnancy. Studies have shown that pregnant mothers who consumed diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids had children with better IQ and faster learning.
After birth, infants should be fed a DHA-fortified formula to have better eyesight and better communication and social skills.
Along with that, omega-3s can ensure a child’s decreased risk of developmental delay, higher intelligence, and reduced risks of many other diseases.
It’s good for the skin
DHA is vital for your skin. In fact, DHA is a structural component of your skin and is responsible for the health of cell membranes which make up most of your skin.
The healthier one’s cell membrane is, the softer, moister, well-nourished, and wrinkle-free their skin will be.
EPA in omega-3s also helps the skin in several ways such as managing hydration of your skin, reducing premature aging of your skin, reducing the occurrence of acne, regulating oil production, and protecting the skin from sun damage.
EPA is also vital in blocking the release of substances which eat away at the collagen in your skin after sun exposure.
Improves joint mobility and bone strength
When it comes to the skeletal system, there are no bigger threats than osteoporosis and arthritis.
Most of us are always looking for ways to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and arthritis, and this is where omega-3 fatty acids come in handy.
Omega-3 are also said to be helpful when it comes to improving the strength and mass of bones. A decrease in bone mass is called osteoporosis. This is extremely common in postmenopausal females. It leads to fractures.
Omega-3 fatty acids can strengthen bones by increasing the amount of calcium that is deposited on the bones. They regulate blood calcium levels as well. There are two kinds of bone cells that help maintain and remodel bone. These are osteoblasts and osteoclasts. These cells are also regulated by omega-3 fatty acids. Taking a diet that has a high omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids ratio can also help prevent osteoporosis.
While omega-3 may not be the cure for arthritis, omega-3 supplements have reportedly reduced joint pain, mobility, and increased grip strength.
Reduces Fat in Liver
While not many pay attention to it, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is widespread among adults.
Combined with obesity, it has become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in adults today.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the chances of fatty liver liver disease. Fatty liver disease can also be associated with alcohol. The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids helps decrease the inflammation in the liver.
High dose omega-3 fatty acids (around 4 grams a day) also help improve the insulin sensitivity of the liver. It can also reduces the fat content of the liver.
Fights Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the biggest problems aging people face is a decline in brain function which becomes unavoidable after a certain age.
Old age demands a fight against mental decline. Higher omega-3 intake has been proven to be the weapon of choice for many. Omega-3s are vital in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older individuals.
Omega-3 supplements may be beneficial at disease onset too when the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease are very mild which could be extremely useful to many suffering from the disease.
Helps prevent heart diseases
Heart diseases are a prevalent cause of death and hospitalization. Due to the consumption of unhealthy meals and a lazy lifestyle, heart diseases are on the rise.
Consuming omega-3 leads to a decrease in the ‘bad’ cholesterol called LDL. This decreases the deposition of cholesterol in the coronary arteries. When there are deposits of cholesterol in an artery, it becomes narrower and can lead to a decrease in the blood supply of the organ leading to angina and heart attacks.
Omega-3 is also shown to lower blood pressure, which decreases the effort the heart has to make to pump blood around the body. It also reduces the chances of abnormal heart rhythm.
They are also beneficial for people with existing heart diseases as they lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death.
Fights against autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases are ones in which the body attacks its own cells, thinking they are foreign or invading cells.
Omega-3 acids help decrease inflammation. They are found to be useful against diabetes type 1, autoimmune diabetes and multiple sclerosis. They have also been used to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.
These are the most important benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. While fatty fish is the best source of this important nutrient, many people turn to supplements to fulfill their daily requirements of omega-3s.
It doesn’t really matter how you take the nutrient. What is more important is that you fulfill your daily requirement to ensure a healthy body and mind. There are very few, if any, nutrients which are as beneficial as omega-3 for long-term health and development which clearly shows how important it is to ensure you have enough of it.