Omega-3 fatty acids have been popular for some time now – ever since Danish scientists discovered that the indigenous people of Greenland, who consumed large amounts of whale and seal meat as part of their daily diets, had very low rates of heart disease.
Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been a feature on many health food blogs and in many different diets, including the Mediterranean diet.
Omega-3’s, as they’re often called, are essential to your body – and it’s important to get them through your diet, because your body does not manufacture them itself.
There are three different types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA; eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA; and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. ALA is found in plant-based sources such as olive oil, walnuts and flax seed, while EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in other seafood.
Here are some of the health benefits of dietary omega-3s:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce your risk of heart disease.
Research shows that omega-3s can lower your blood pressure and raise your “good” cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases(1). Omega-3s may also reduce your risk of stroke and blood clots.
2. Omega-3s are good for arthritis.
Studies have shown that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, which is great news for arthritis sufferers(2).
3. Omega-3s are good for your brain.
People with a lower intake of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be at greater risk for developing age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease(3). Regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your brain function sharp as you age.
4. Omega-3s are good for your eyes.
One study showed that people who ate more fish in their diet were less likely to develop macular degeneration – a serious condition which can lead to blindness – than those who ate less(4).
5. Omega-3s reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids can slow the development of colorectal cancer. Additionally, there’s evidence that populations who eat diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids have lower rates of the disease(5).
6. Omega-3s lower your risk of developing asthma.
Because a diet high in omega-3s can reduce inflammation, a factor that plays a key role in asthma, omega-3s are great for preventing asthmatic responses(6).
In the United States, most individuals don’t get enough omega-3s in their diets – men get only 50% of the recommended daily intake, while women get 40%. Increasing your dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids can benefit your health in many ways.