Omega-3 fats are a crucial part of human cell membranes. They also have a number of other important functions, including:
- Improving heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids can increase “good” HDL cholesterol. They can also reduce triglycerides, blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaques.
- Supporting mental health: Taking omega-3s can reduce symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It can also reduce the risk of psychotic disorders for those who are at risk.
- Reducing weight and waist size: Omega-3 fats play an important role in weight management and can help reduce waist circumference.
- Decreasing liver fat: Consuming omega-3s in your diet can help decrease the amount of fat in your liver.
- Supporting infant brain development: Omega-3s are extremely important for brain development in babies.
- Fighting inflammation: Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory, meaning they can reduce the inflammation in your body that can contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
- Preventing dementia: People who eat more fish, which is high in omega-3 fats, tend to have a slower decline in brain function in old age. Omega-3s may also help improve memory in older people.
- Promoting bone health: People with higher omega-3 intake and blood levels tend to have better bone mineral density.
- Preventing asthma: Omega-3 intake can help reduce symptoms of asthma, especially in early life.
Unfortunately, the Western diet does not contain enough omega-3s. The recommendation is at least 2 servings of oily fish per week. A deficiency may contribute to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
If you aren't eating enough oily fish, or you are vegan, you may want to consider supplementation for Omega-3. Note that fish sources contain both EPA and DHA, the most important triglycirides. Non-fish sources contain ALA, which is mainly used for energy and not very efficient when being converted into EPA/DHA.
Here are the amounts and types of omega-3s in one serving of the following foods:
- Salmon: 4.0 grams EPA and DHA
- Mackerel: 3.0 grams EPA and DHA
- Sardines: 2.2 grams EPA and DHA
- Anchovies: 1.0 grams EPA and DHA
- Chia seeds: 4.9 grams ALA
- Walnuts: 2.5 grams ALA
- Flaxseeds: 2.3 grams ALA