These days, there’s a lot of buzz about omega-3s for heart health and a whole lot more. But what are they? How much do you need? And where do you get them? Read on to learn more about these miraculous little molecules.
What Exactly Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a form of fatty acids. Fatty acids found in oils and other fats can be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated and are organic, containing both carbon and hydrogen molecules. Fatty acids can be burned as fuel but are also a very important part of cell membranes, organs and tissues. Omega-3 fatty acids support health in many ways including cardiovascular, brain, and joint health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered "essential" because your body needs them to function but can’t create them. Unlike "bad" fats that can clog your arteries and raise your cholesterol, these "good" fats play a crucial role in reducing the risk of heart disease. They should be part of a healthy diet – even if you’re watching your weight.
What Do All Those Abbreviations Mean?
ALA, DHA and EPA are abbreviations of the main types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. EPA and DHA are abundant in seaweed and coldwater fish. ALA, a fatty acid found in walnuts, flaxseed and other plants, can be converted into DHA and EPA by your body.
The Big Benefits
Scientists first noticed a connection between omega-3 fatty acids and health back in the 1970’s when they compared people living in Scandinavia with Greenland Eskimos. The Eskimos had a reduced rate of heart disease and other conditions even though their diet was high in fat. Researchers hypothesized that the type of fat – marine based – might be a factor. Since then, study after study has confirmed that omega-3s have a potent, positive effect on heart disease:
- Help prevent irregular heart beat
- Reduce the plaque inside artery walls
- Decrease blood clotting
- Lower levels of triglycerides (blood fat)
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation throughout the body, including blood vessels
- Reduce total cholesterol
Early humans ate plenty of foods high in omega-3 such as wild greens, seafood, and lean animals that grazed on grasses such as purslane. Today, the best food sources are fatty coldwater fish such as mackerel, herring, lake trout, salmon, anchovies and tuna. Omega-3s are also found in plant and nut oils – especially flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts – although they’re not as potent as those found in fish. And while enhanced eggs and grass-fed beef and chicken contain omega-3, they also have a lot less than fish.
Improve Your Cholesterol
A Mediterranean style diet emphasizes omega-3 foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil, fish and moderate amounts of wine. This helps promote heart health by raising levels of HDL, your "good" cholesterol.
Nuts and Seeds
Walnuts and flax seeds are good sources of omega-3s, fiber and antioxidants. One ounce of walnuts – about a handful – provides about 2 ½ grams of omega-3, the equivalent of 3.5 ounces of salmon. Walnuts are also a good source of Vitamin E.
Get Hooked On Fish
Most studies on omega-3 have shown a positive benefit in participants who consumed 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day. As a result, the American Heart Association recommends that adults eat a variety of fish at least twice a week.
In addition to eating fish, reel in more omega-3s with Schiff® MegaRed® Omega-3 Krill Oil. It’s an optimal combination of DHA and EPA, antioxidants and phospholipids for easy absorption. MegaRed® contains oil from pure Antarctic krill, the superior source of omega-3. Just one small softgel per day supports heart health – with no fishy smell or aftertaste.*
Boosting your omega-3 intake is one way to help keep your heart healthy for years to come.