Omega-3 fatty acids are essentials polyunsaturated fats you must include in your diet. Unlike saturated fats, our bodies can’t produce them, therefore, making it 'essential’ for us to include them in our diets.Yet despite this factor, most people in Western society aren’t eating enough.1
With this in mind, we’ve put together a quick guide detailing everything you need to know about omega-3 fatty acids – lucky you.
Identifying the three main types of omega-3 fats and their benefits
There are many fatty acids in the omega-3 family, with the three most important being Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA). EPA is commonly found in fatty fish, fish oils and seafood, helping to form signalling molecules called eicosanoids. This can reduce inflammation and low mood.2,3 DHA is often found in fatty fish, seafood, algae and fish oils. Its main function is to act as a structural component in cell membranes, helping the nerves in the brain and eyes work effectively. DHA is also vital during pregnancy, including the baby’s neurodevelopment, the timing of birth and its weight.4 While ALA is found in high-fat plant foods like chia seeds, walnuts and flax seeds. However, to offer any significant benefits to your body, ALA needs to be converted into DHA and EPA.5
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What happens if your body doesn’t get the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids?
If your body doesn’t get enough essential omega-3 fatty acids, it can lead to a number of issues, including:
- dry or dull skin
- dry hair
- high cholesterol
- soft and brittle nails
- confusion and disorientation
- cravings for fatty foods
- dry eyes
On the other hand, if you can’t resist consuming omega-3 fatty foods, you could end up having too much.You should aim to consume no more than 2000 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Exceeding this amount can cause blood thinning and easy bleeding, while taking too many fish oil supplements can cause digestive issues.6 ALA offers a great vegetarian source and a natural energy boost, but it’s worth remembering that they should never be relied on as a sole source of omega-3 fatty acids, as the body needs to convert them into EPA and DHA to be effective. Especially when an average of 5% gets converted into EPA and just 0.5% into DHA.7
Other sources of omega-3
Besides fatty fishes, seafood and high-plant foods, certain supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids too. A normal fish oil supplement can help improve your wellbeing.8 However, it’s worth looking at the packaging beforehand to decide which one is best for you. Natural ones usually only contain 30% EPA and DHA, meaning 70% are other fats, whereas concentrated ones have as much as 90% DHA and EPA in them.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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