Omega-3 fatty acid is the best known good fat for overall health maintenance and disease prevention. It is found in a variety of foods such as avocados, egg and dairy, nuts, seeds and meat. However, fatty cold water fish like tuna, salmon and halibut, are by far the best sources for omega-3s. You can also get a concentrated dosage of essential nutrient by taking fish oil supplements.
DHA and EPA
The most biologically valuable of the omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. They are naturally produced by deep sea microalgae. Fish and other animals that ingest these microalgae accumulate these nutrients in their fatty tissues. Although your body can convert limited amounts of vegetarian omega-3 into DHA and EPA, these nutrients are much better absorbed if you acquire them directly through fish or fish oil.
The most important reason why you should include DHA and EPA in your diet is to ensure your cardiovascular health. DHA has been proven to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol. Regular intake of DHA can lower your blood triglyceride and low density lipoproteins (LDL) and raise your blood high density lipoproteins (HDL), which will significantly reduce your chances for strokes and heart attacks. EPA protects your blood vessels from inflammation and free radical damages, strengthening them and making them less susceptible to lesions and hemorrhage. The American Heart Association (AHA) has approved fish oil as an effective treatment for coronary heart disease.
DHA and EPA also play an important role in your neurological health. DHA promotes brain development and cognitive functions. DHA and EPA also prevent neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and lower your risks of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids has been found to reduce cancer risks, improve skin condition and alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Fish or Fish Oil Supplement
In general, one 3-ounce serving of fatty fish provides about 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s which is comparable to an average fish oil capsule. For active adults, having three servings of fatty fish per week as part of a healthy diet and exercise routine is sufficient to keep the body in great condition. If you are allergic to fish or if you are a vegetarian, try taking a fish oil daily supplement.
You should also supplement your dietary intake with fish oil if you fit into one of the following categories.
- High risk groups of heart disease: overweight or obese, diabetic, high blood pressure and high cholesterol patients need a daily supplement dosage of 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams of omega-3s.
- Ages 50 or above: dietary nutrients are harder to absorb as you get older. Older people, especially postmenopausal women, are highly likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol and suffer from depressive symptoms. You should take at least 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 per day as a supplement after age 50 to prevent these onsets.
- Pregnant or lactating women: fast brain development of the fetus and newborns require additional DHA and EPA. Babies born to mothers who take extra fish oil supplements during pregnancy and lactation have better cognitive abilities, better memory and faster brain responses.
- Rheumatoid arthritis patients: 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams of omega-3s per day can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.