Updated: May 4, 2021
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are touted to do everything from relieving arthritis and joint pain, to reducing the risk of heart disease, preventing memory loss and dementia, and even help boosting your mood. So what’s the deal? What are these seemingly all-powerful omega-3s, how can we get more of them in our diet and do they live up to the hype?
What are Omega 3's?
Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat that have been researched extensively, and time and time again they have come up as incredibly beneficial nutrients when it comes to a number of different health markers. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the essential nutrients that your body needs to function at its best. Omega-3s work to prevent and manage heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and are also important for eye health and brain function, among other benefits. The ones with the most health benefits: EPA and DHA, both omega-3s that are found in their highest concentration in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, etc), but also to a lesser extent in eggs as well as nuts and seeds.
Here’s what the research has to say:
Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to heart, eye and brain health. Adequate omega-3 intake can increase levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). They can also lower triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood that, when combined with high LDL cholesterol is linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3s can lower blood pressure as well as prevent plaque from hardening in your arteries.When it comes to the health of your brain, these fatty acids are critical for healthy brain function. Omega-3s can boost blood flow to your brain, improve performance during mental tasks, help with learning and even improve your memory. Emerging research is showing that omega-3s may even help improve symptoms of depression, though the jury is still out on that.
Similar to your brain, your eyes depend on omega-3 fats as well. Research has revealed that people who don't consume enough omega-3s have a greater risk of eye diseases including macular degeneration.
Omega-3s can also have major skin benefits as well! They can help regulate oil production, hydrate dry skin, lessening the appearance of wrinkles, and prevent acne breakouts.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can increase your risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
The issue that arises is that two of the three essential omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty, coldwater fish, which not everyone truly enjoys adding to their diet 2x per week. If this sounds like you, high quality krill or fish oil supplements could be the answer to your dietary woes. While it is usually best to try to get the majority of your vitamins, nutrients and minerals from whole food sources, sometimes it just isn’t possible. Krill/Fish oil is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements for this reason. Supplementing with a krill/fish oil pill can help you get enough omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish/krill oil is the fat that has been extracted from the tissue of the fish or krill and generally comes from those fatty fish listed above, though it can also come from the livers of the fish as well. Be sure to take your fish oil supplement with a meal that contains fat, as other dietary fats can assist in your absorption of omega-3 fatty acids.