The Surprising Reason You Need More Of This Nutrient

The Surprising Reason You Need More Of This Nutrient

The human body makes most of the fats that it needs from raw materials or other fats. This isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids. The body cannot make essential fats, so you must get them from food sources. The same applies for essential amino acids, which are proteins that the body does not produce. Foods that are rich in omega-3s include vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, fish, and leafy vegetables. 

What Are Omgea-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids only exist in certain foods and supplements. They are integral components of cell membranes throughout the body and provide a starting point for hormonal production. Omega-3s also work to regulate blood clotting, reduce inflammation, and aid with the contraction and relaxation of arterial walls. Because of these effects, omega-3s may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and may protect against eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, most of the research on the benefits of omega-3s lies in the realm of heart health. 

There are different types of omega-3s: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Many health experts encourage people to consume foods that have larger amounts of EPA and DHA because the body can use them immediately after consumption. ALA has to be converted into DHA and EPA in order for the body to use it for something other than energy. If the body doesn’t convert ALA into EPA or DHA, it stores it for later energy like any other fat.

What Are EPA And DHA?

Both EPA and DHA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These healthy fats are derived from marine sources, primarily algae, which many fish consume. That’s why fish oil and fish tend to be the richest sources of EPA and DHA. Walnuts, flax seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy vegetables are excellent sources of ALA. The amount of ALA that the body converts into EPA or DHA is very small. In fact, several studies confirm that Western diets only convert about five to eight percent of ALA into EPA, with less converting to DHA at 0.5 to five percent. 

Although ALA, EPA, and DHA are all PUFAs, ALA is the shortest of the three. EPA has 20 carbons and five double bonds, DHA has 22 carbons and six double bonds, and ALA has 18 carbons and three double bonds. These chemical differences indicate that each fatty acid is unique and plays a different role in physiological health. As previously mentioned, it’s more common for people to to consume ALA than EPA or DHA. This is because Americans don’t typically consume an array of marine omega-3s. In fact, most Americans consume too many omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to widespread inflammation. You can click here to learn more about the different omegas. Eating more EPA and DHA is not difficult, but you can supplement if you don’t enjoy the foods that contain them. You can experience the following benefits with more EPA and DHA in your diet. 

Health Benefits Of EPA And DHA

When you consume enough of these omega-3s, you can improve your health in numerous ways. For example, women who are trying to become pregnant, or nursing mothers, benefit from adding more EPA and DHA to their diets. This is because a developing fetus or breastfeeding baby requires DHA for brain and nervous system development. Other benefits can include:

  • Inflammatory conditions: Omega-3s have demonstrated an ability to regulate inflammation in the body by reducing inflammatory markers.
  • Vision: According to some research, regular omega-3 consumption may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and dry eye disease. Research is still preliminary in this regard, though.
  • Brain health: Several studies indicate that omega-3s may support cognitive function and protect against cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Heart health: Research surrounding heart health is more prevalent in regards to omega-3s. These fatty acids may help reduce blood pressure, lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and help the heart beat at a steady rate.

High quality sources of EPA and DHA are most important for dietary intake. If you are interested in supplementing with omega-3s, consider consulting with a health care professional to determine which supplement and dose is beneficial for you.

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