Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Everything You Need to Know
You’ve heard so much about Omega-3 acids. They are recommended in all diets, and it’s common to see many products containing Omega-3 fatty acids on grocery store shelves.
Fatty acids are recommended for people of all ages – young and old. So what makes Omega-3 fatty acids so important, and why are they recommended by specialists?
Fats are one of the macronutrients necessary to maintain good health. We should not eliminate them from the diet by eating skimmed products (often labeled ‘light’ or ‘0%’). However, we should pay attention to the qualitative composition of fats and consume them in the right proportions.
To understand why Omega-3 is necessary you should first know the general characteristics and distribution of fatty acids.
Fats can be classified as vegetable fats and animal fats as well as liquid fats and solid fats. Animal fats are saturated fats with a solid consistency, whereas unsaturated fats come from plants and have a liquid consistency.
Our body can synthesize saturated fats by itself, so it is not necessary to include them in everyday diet. But it is the only type of fatty acids that we can produce ourselves. That is why it is so important to make sure the body gets the unsaturated fats or Omega-3 it needs.
At the same time, not all animal fats are saturated fats, and not all vegetable fats are unsaturated fats. Notable exceptions include coconut oil (vegetable fat), which has a solid consistency, and fish oil (animal fat), which has a liquid consistency. The characteristics of fats depend not on their origins, but on the number of carbon bonds in their chemical structure.
So now you have a good idea of why you should include Omega-3 fats in your diet. Let’s also take a quick look at which products contain the most harmful TRANS fats.
Foods containing good fats: linseed, avocado, nuts, vegetable oils, almonds, fish
Foods containing unhealthy (trans) fats: fast-food, popcorn, frankfurters, chocolate, chips, fries, sweets, biscuits, donuts
Stop for a moment, and consider your diet plan for the week. Are there any trans fats that are dangerous for your health, or does your diet contain more of unsaturated fats? Or do you not eat fats at all?
It is helpful to look at populations that eat the Mediterranean diet. These people are much less likely to suffer from heart diseases caused by, among other things, a deficiency of fatty acids.
Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-3 is the building material of myelin sheaths. It supports the brain (improves blood flow and stimulation, enhances memory and concentration and protects against dementia), and can even help prevent Alzheimer’s. In particular, Omega-3 supplementation is recommended in infants who are still developing their nervous systems.
- Omega-3 has an anti-cancer effect.
- Omega-3 supports the fight against depression. Depression is a neurodegenerative disease, and Omega-3 aids the action of antidepressants. It has also been shown that those who consume more Omega-3 are less likely to have depression.
- Omega-3 can help fight asthma. Inflammation is a factor in the development of asthma, and Omega-3 lowers the concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Omega-3 regulates lipid metabolism in the body. It reduces the concentration of triglycerides in the blood (inhibiting their synthesis in the liver and intestines), which lowers total cholesterol and improves the lipid profile of people at risk for atherosclerosis. However, it’s necessary to provide Omega-3 fatty acids in sufficiently high doses to obtain these benefits.
- Omega-3 inhibits lipogenesis (protects against obesity).
- They slow down the aging of cells and improve the condition of your skin and brain. If you want to improve your overall health, Omega-3 can help you!
- They suppress an excessive immune response (antiallergic effect).
- They protect eyesight, especially in the presence of fat-soluble Vitamin A.
- An increased supply of Omega-3 can reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve mental abilities in children.
- Omega-3 supports the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Where can you find Omega-3 fatty acids?
While Omega-3 acids are available as supplements, they can also be consumed in natural form. They occur in large quantities in tasty, healthy, and well-liked plant and animal products such as:
- Olive oil
- Linseed – it is best to grind them right before consumption because only this form allows the release of valuable Omega-3 acids during the digestion process. The body cannot obtain fat from the whole seed. The powdered products available in stores are already oxidized and contain no valuable substances.
- Nuts, in particular, walnuts and almonds
- Oily sea fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout, sardines, shark, pike
- Eggs from organic farms where the chickens are fed with food enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vegetable oils such as rapeseed, linseed, peanut, soy, wheat germ, and walnut oil
- Fish liver oil, which is usually available in the form of supplements
- Cannabis (read here: Cannabis – The best source of omega acids and proteins in the vegan diet)
** Note that an excess of Omega-3 fatty acids in the body can be harmful for people taking anticoagulants because it increases the likelihood of bleeding.
What are the consequences of Omega-3 deficiency?
The average diet is low in Omega-3 fatty acids, so introducing changes in your diet to avoid the below-mentioned effects of Omega-3 deficiency can be helpful.
Omega-3 deficiency can cause:
– dementia in old age,
– impaired vision,
– an increase in cholesterol, which can lead to atherosclerosis and stroke,
– and difficulties with memorizing, learning, and concentration among children.
How to consume Omega-3 fatty acids for optimal benefit?
The first step is to limit the consumption of red meat – pork, beef, and veal. Instead, you can try to eat fatty fish and seafood 3-4 times a week. Prepare salads drizzled with different types of oils such as olive oil, linseed oil, soy oil, and walnut oil. You can also prepare different dips using these oils.
Instead of having cereal with milk for breakfast, go for a toast topped with avocado, salmon, or vegetables drizzled with oil. You can also have scrambled eggs with walnuts and vegetables drizzled with oil. Be creative!