Omega 3 is a type of essential fat. Although our bodies cannot manufacture them, they are essential for our survival. It has to come from dietary sources. Experts call it “The Ultimate Wellness Molecule” for the immense benefits it possesses.
What are the Different Types of Omega 3?
There are 3 types of Omega 3: EPA, DHA and ALA. EPA and DHA are more beneficial and are largely found in fish. Whereas ALA is found in vegetarian sources like flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. Though some part of ALA converts into EPA and DHA, the conversion is very low. Hence if you don’t eat fish regularly, it becomes quite important to supplement with an Omega 3 supplement.
Some Symptoms of Omega 3 Deficiency
There are no standard popular tests to find out about Omega 3 deficiency. Though some symptoms may happen because of Omega 3 deficiency:
- Dry eyes
- Dry skin
- Changes in hair texture, integrity, and density may indicate a low omega-3 status.
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Depression and anxiety
What are the Benefits of Omega 3?
All the points that I am mentioning here are backed by research. With the intent of keeping the article short and useful, I am not citing research here.
- It’s your heart’s best friend. It can improve risk factors for heart disease
- It can lower triglyceride levels
- It can reduce BP for people with high BP
- It can reduce inflammation
- It can increase HDL
- It can improve brain health, especially during pregnancy and early life. DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in your brain. So, if you want an intelligent child with good social and communication skills, then consume more Omega 3.
- It’s important for eye health. DHA accounts for 60% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the retina of your eye.
- It can improve bone and joint health. Studies show that omega-3 can improve bone health by boosting the amount of calcium in your bones.
- It can help with mental health (including ADHD, Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety). A study has found EPA to be effective against depression as a common antidepressant drug.
- It can improve sleep. Studies indicate that omega-3 increases both the length and quality of sleep.
- It can improve the quality of skin and hair. DHA is a structural component of your skin. It leads to more supple, moist and wrinkle-free skin. Studies also show those who had taken Omega 3 supplements experienced reduced hair loss and increased hair density.
- It may prevent cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers including colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.
- It can fight metabolic syndrome disorders (including inflammation, and insulin resistance). It’s one of the best anti-inflammatory compounds in the universe.
How Much Do I Need?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with no history of heart disease should eat at least 2 servings of fish each week (a total of ~200gms). The best sources of Omega 3 fish are salmon, tuna, swordfish, anchovy, mackerel and sardines.
If you have a history of heart disease or are a vegetarian, then taking a supplement is advisable. It should be a minimum of 1gm capsule daily. Ideally, 2gms of fish oil. Many functional medicine practitioners also recommend 4-5gms of fish oil daily but I would say that should be more in exceptional cases.
What Do You Consume If You are a Vegetarian?
The best food sources of Omega 3 are walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Even vegetable oils have some Omega 3. But most of them have ALA and not EPA or DHA. So, the only way to add EPA, and DHA to your diet is by taking a supplement.
Though many people are against the idea of supplements, there is no other viable/practical option. Supplements become a must in the case of Omega 3 if you are a vegetarian. Fish oil is the best source of Omega 3. And most vegetarians are ok taking this supplement even though the supplement comes from fish. But in case you do not want to take a fish supplement, take some algae-based Omega 3 supplement which has a good amount of EPA and DHA. Flaxseed-based omega-3 supplements have ALA which may not be sufficient.
Are Supplements Safe?
Yes, I have been taking them for years (on and off). As long as you are taking 2 grams of supplements, there is nothing to worry about. Above that, it’s important to discuss with an expert.
“When taken as recommended, fish oil supplements are generally considered safe. However, fish oil supplements can cause mild side effects, including a fishy aftertaste, bad breath, heartburn, nausea or diarrhoea and rashes.” Mayo Clinic.
It’s important to buy supplements from a well-reputed brand as poor-quality supplements can cause more harm than good.
Do you need any more reasons to increase your consumption of Omega 3? Start taking this “ The Ultimate Wellness Molecule”.