Eat Healthy

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

You've probably heard or seen something about Omega 3 fatty acids on the radio, TV or in a magazine. But how much do you really know about them? Hopefully our explanation will help.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a polyunsaturated fatty acid, meaning they have multiple double bonds. Humans lack the enzymes necessary to make Omega 3 fatty acids. Because we can't make these fatty acids they are referred to as "essential nutrients," meaning we have to get them through our foods.

Most Western diets are higher in Omega 6 fatty acids rather than Omega 3 fatty acids because of the use of vegetable oils instead of oils rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and because of the decline in fish consumption in our society.

What Omega 3 fatty acids do for your body:
  • Assist cell membrane structure and function
  • Vision (DHA) - Assist in normal development and function of retina
  • Nervous system (DHA)- Assist in the development of brain and central nervous system
  • Immune and inflammatory responses - help your body to fight disease and infection
  • Regulation of gene expression
Signs that you are not getting enough Omega 3 in your diet:
  • Dry scaly rash
  • Decreased growth in infants and children
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Poor wound healing

Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to help your body prevent disease:

  • Visual and neurological development; Breast milk as a source of omega 3 fatty acids, now in formulas as well DHA
  • Coronary Heart Disease: A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids showed reduction in risk for CHD
    • Evidence that it helps lower triglyceride levels, especially in people with diabetes
    • Evidence of slowing atherosclerotic plaque, the stuff that clogs your arteries
    • Decrease in risk of blood clots leading to heart attacks or stroke
    • Effect of slight lowering of blood pressure

How much Omega 3 should you eat:

Adult Males 1.6 gm/day
Adult Females 1.1 gms/day

Where/how can you get Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet?
  • Flaxseed and Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts and walnut oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Tofu, firm
  • Fish and fish oils
  • Herring, sardines, salmon, oysters, trout, tuna

It is best to get Omega-3 fatty acids through a well-balanced diet. IF you eat enough foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids you don't need supplements. Check with a dietitian or other healthcare provider before taking a supplement.

Additional Resource: http://www.omega3learning.purdue.edu/

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