Did your grandmother ever tell you to take cod liver oil for good health? You may have thought she was crazy to drink the slimy, nasty, fish-smelling liquid, but grandmother was actually right.
In fact, tons of research has confirmed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and other foods provide many health benefits.
Now you just need to learn where to find omega-3 fatty acids and what makes them so great. Keep reading to find out!
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat needed by the body for optimal health and metabolism. Since your body can’t produce this essential nutrient by itself, it must be part of your diet. There are three main types of omega-3s: Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), a-Linolenic Acid (ALA), and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA). When omega-3s are in a food, they’re usually listed on food labels by their abbreviation.
EPA and DHA are found primarily in fatty fish, fish oil, and algae oil. Certain oils and nuts are the best sources of ALA, which is converted to omega-3 when in the body. While ALA is useful, EPA and DHA have been proven to have greater health benefits.
Why They’re Essential
It’s likely you don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet if the majority of your meals center around meat. By changing your diet to include more omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll have the opportunity to reap numerous health benefits that are associated with eating adequate amounts of this essential nutrient.
Omega-3 fatty acids, whether it winds up in your body via fish or fish oil supplements, will help balance your blood sugar levels, act as a boost to your immune system, prevent certain cancers, and maybe even help you lose weight.
On top of these perks, omega-3s have been shown to do the following:
- reduce inflammation in the body (blood vessels, joints) and boost the usefulness of anti-inflammatory drugs
- lower high triglyceride (blood fat) levels, thereby lowering your risk for heart disease
- improve your overall cardiovascular health; reduce arrhythmias; slow the buildup of plaque in your arteries; and lower your risk for subsequent heart attacks or death from heart disease and stroke
- lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing stiffness and joint pain
- cut your risk for depression, decrease bipolar disorder symptoms, and improve the effectiveness of antidepressants
- improve the health of pregnant women and promote healthy neurological and visual development of babies
- lessen asthmatic symptoms and allergies by reducing inflammation
- improve cognitive function in children and possibly reduce ADHD symptoms
- possibly help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Consuming more than three grams a day of omega-3’s may increase your risk of bleeding. If you suffer from a bleeding condition or take medications that increase bleeding, speak with your doctor before taking an omega-3 supplement.
Sources of Omega-3s
Convinced you need omega-3 fatty acids, and ready to stock up on foods rich in them? If possible, it’s better to get fatty acids from food rather than supplements. The best sources of DHA and EPA include fatty fish such as bluefish, anchovies, herring, wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, lake trout, sturgeon, and tuna. For maximum benefit, aim to eat fish at least twice a week.
The best sources of ALA are flax, flaxseed oil, olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and walnuts. Keep in mind that despite their health benefits, oils and nuts are high in calories, so be careful that you don’t overdo it.
Algae oil supplements contain only DHA. If you don’t care for fish or are a vegetarian, this may be a good option for you. Fish oil capsules contain both DHA and EPA. Heart disease sufferers can add a gram of fish oil to their daily regimen for improved health.
It could be all that fish oil. Because while it is certain to improve your overall health, downing fish oil can result in gas and indigestion. In the event you wind up gassy, talk with a health pro to find out if you need to modify your method of consuming omega-3 fatty acids.
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