Getting Enough of the Right Omega-3s to Improve Your Health?
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital fats that improve the health of your heart, brain and eyes.
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is the best way to reap the health benefits of these essential nutrients. Do you know that the source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is as important as how much you’re getting?
According to research, plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids aren’t linked to as many health benefits as seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids. For example, there is no evidence yet that plant-based omega-3 fatty acids can improve cognition or prevent strokes. There is evidence that omega-3s in fish meat and fish oil can improve cognition and prevent stroke.
What’s the difference between seafood sources of omega-3s and plant-based omega-3s?
Seafood sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, salmon, cod, herring and other fatty fish have long-chain omega-3s in them called Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have been linked to a wide range of health benefits such as improved eyesight and cognition. Strong evidence suggests that getting enough EPA and DHA omega-3s in your diet can reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease because it reduces triglycerine levels. Some evidence suggests that they may also improve blood vessel function and reduce blood pressure which can decrease the risk of stroke. DHA is known to be an essential nutrient for pregnant women because it is needed for fetuses’ healthy brain and eye development.
In contrast, plant-based sources of omega-3s, such as flax seeds, chai seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts, have a shorter-chain omega-3 fatty acid in them known as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). So far, studies suggest that it is not as beneficial as EPA and DHA. Though the body can convert it into EPA and DHA, the conversion process is inefficient which makes it is difficult to meet your body’s needs.
How can you get the most benefits from eating omega-3 rich foods?
The American Heart Association recommends getting 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3s through seafood every day to improve your overall heart health and decrease your risk of stroke. Their recommendation is approximately the equivalent of one 3 oz serving of omega-3 rich fish per day. If you have high triglycerides, they recommend getting 2,000 to 3,000 mg per day which is approximately the equivalent of one 6 oz serving or two 3 oz servings of omega-3 rich fish per day.
If you are concerned about eating fish because of the mercury levels in seafood, keep in mind that fish that are lower on the food chain have far less mercury. Salmon, light tuna (canned), shrimp and cod are all lower on the food chain and have low mercury levels. If you are pregnant, be sure to avoid white (albacore) tuna which has a higher mercury count. If you are not pregnant, you can eat white tuna but you shouldn’t eat more than 6 ounces per week.
Come on down to City Fish Market to pick up fresh seafood if you want to make a heart-healthy dinner tonight! We can let you know which fish have the highest omega-3 content and lowest mercury content.
If you aren’t a fan of fish or don’t know how to cook it, check out our Cooking Tips for People Who Don’t Like Fish.