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What Omega-3 Fatty Acid Does for You

Dec 11, 2009

Omega-3 fatty acid belongs to a group of fats essential to good health. When considering choices to make to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, fat-rich foods do not appear at the top of the list. While it is true that certain fats, in large amounts, can be damaging to your health, there are also fats which are vital in maintaining health, and these and pose many benefits.

What is Omega-3?

Along with proteins and carbohydrates, fats are a class of nutrient with the primary purpose of providing the body with energy.  Omega-3 is not a single nutrient, but rather a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids and can be broken down into alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) hence the ‘3’.  These three acids cannot be produced by the body and so must be obtained through secondary sources, although EPA and DHA are the most important for health.

What Foods Contain Omega-3?

There are a large number of sources from which Omega-3 fatty acid can be obtained so that you can pick and choose and balance your dietary preferences alongside the most Omega-3-rich foods. Coldwater oily fish such herring, sardines, salmon and trout is the most widely available source of Omega-3 fatty acid. These fish contain not only Omega-3, but also Omega-6 fatty acids, another group of important fats that do not occur naturally in the body. Another source is flaxseed (also known as linseed) which is often sold as oil, but also comes in seed form and contains almost six-times as much Omega-3, then is found in the majority of fish oils. It is also a good course of fiber and is the richest botanical source of Omega-3. Pumpkin and hemp seeds along with a variety of nuts (walnuts, pecans), pulses (soybeans, kidney beans) and vegetables (broccoli, spinach) are also excellent sources of Omega-3.  There also exist a large number of dietary supplements to boost Omega-3 intake.

Health Benefits

There has been over the last decade, an increasing emphasis put on the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids and the reasons are many. Research has determined that repeated consumption of Omega-3 along with Omega-6 can aid in preventing or controlling several severe health conditions such as heart disease, cancer (with particularly emphasis on breast, prostate and colon cancer), bowl disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis and even arthritis.  These same fatty-acids have also been proven to be beneficial in handling such mental conditions as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, as well as boosting the immune system and aiding weight loss. As the brain is largely composed of fatty acids, the under-consumption of Omega-3 fatty acid can lead to a number of cognitive, behavioral and memory-related deficiencies. 

Remember, you don't need a stringent intake regime when it comes to Omega-3, nor do you have to take it daily. A weekly intake of 6 to 8 gram is all you need to remain healthy.

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