For a healthier heart and brain, eat omega 3’s!
I’m not one to get all hopped up on the latest and greatest supplements to enter the market. Heaven knows there are a gazillion of them, most with exaggerated claims purporting to cure everything from achy joints to low sex drive to stupidity! I analyze each with a very skeptical eye, looking for unbiased, documented clinical studies to support each claim.
One such supplement is receiving lots of positive attention lately and has managed to pique my interest enough to research the studies a bit further. I must say, I’m impressed enough to begin taking the supplement myself! You guessed it — omega 3 fatty acids!
What are omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, ALA) are essential fatty acids needed for a healthy body. You can only get them from your diet and, while we should all strive to get our nutrients from food versus a supplement, most of us don’t even come close to eating enough omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods!
Food sources of DHA and EPA (the most crucial ones) include anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed), sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna. Food sources of ALA include walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil, and soybean oil. Keep in mind that ALA is only partially converted into DHA and EPA, so you’ll want to choose more of the above fish for real benefit!
What can omega 3 fatty acids do for you?
- Lower triglycerides: Studies have shown DHA to reduce triglyceride (blood fat) levels. Elevated triglycerides increase your risk for heart disease!
- Boost heart health: Omega-3’s appear to lower the overall risk of death from heart disease. Eating just two servings of fish each week seems to significantly lower the risk of stroke. Bonus!
- Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain: Studies have found fish oil supplements to reduce the stiffness and joint pain experienced by those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
- Reduce depression: Researchers discovered lower levels of depression in those populations eating higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. Feeling blue? Go fish!
- Control ADHD: Some studies show improved cognitive function and reduced symptoms of ADHD in those people taking fish oil supplements.
- “Smarter” brain: DHA happens to be the main structural component in your brain, so it makes sense that a diet rich in DHA omega 3 fatty acids will produce a higher-functioning noggin!
How much do you need?
For healthy adults, the World Health Organization recommends consuming 0.3-0.5 grams (300-500 mg) of daily EPA + DHA. This equals out to 2100-3500 mg per week.
The American Heart Association wants you to eat 2 servings of fatty fish per week to achieve the recommended dose of DHA and EPA. One 3-ounce portion of Atlantic salmon offers 1.9 grams of omega 3’s, so if you eat two servings per week you’re up to 3.8 grams (3800 mg).
But what if you don’t like fish? You might want to consider taking a supplement. Here are two brands that I recommend:
- Coromega: Comes in orange-flavored squeeze gel packets that can be added to smoothies or juices. Each packet offers 580 mg of EPA + DHA. This is the one I take and love it…no fishy aftertaste whatsoever! P.S. You can even buy it at your local Walgreens! www.coromega.com
- OmegaRx: Comes in capsule form. Each capsule offers 600 mg of EPA + DHA. www.zonediet.com/omega-3-fish-oil
The bottom line: Eat more fatty fish! If you don’t care for fish, eat more ALA-rich foods like flaxseeds and walnuts. But to get the benefits of DHA and EPA you’ll want to take a supplement—just be sure to check with your doctor first!