Are you eating enough fish every week to really receive its benefits? Nutrition experts at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association both recommend that adults should eat fish twice a week. Not only is fish a great source of lean protein, but it’s also high in vitamins and minerals; such as Vitamin B, Vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorous.
However, one of the main reasons to make fish a part of your regular diet is that most varieties are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. You’ve probably heard a lot about Omega 3 fatty acids because these essential fatty acids are a big part of your overall health.
Which is why today we’re going to take a look at what omega-3 fatty acids are, how they are beneficial to your health, and why it’s important to add fish and seafood to your dietary intake!
Understanding Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a group of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids that play an important role in keeping our bodies functioning properly. These essential fats are found in fish oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and other foods. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and support brain development. Additionally, these fats can also help with skin and hair health, preventing dryness and promoting a glowing appearance. Despite the benefits of Omega-3s, it can be difficult for the body to produce enough on its own. Therefore, experts recommend incorporating Omega-3 rich foods into your diet or taking a supplement to ensure adequate levels of these crucial fats in your system.
There are three types:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most common type that your body uses for energy, though extra ALA can also be converted into EPA and DHA.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most important type of Omega-3 as it’s a necessary structural component of your brain and retinas.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) often converts into DHA and works in conjunction with DHA.
While ALA is pretty much only found in plants like flax seeds, chia seeds, canola oil, and walnuts, DHA and EPA are found mainly in fish and fish oil.
Health Benefits of Omega-3s
Not only are these essential fatty acids important for energy and supporting the structure of your brain and eyes, but studies have also shown they support other areas of your health, including:
Promoting Brain Health During Pregnancy
Getting enough Omega-3s for pregnant women during pregnancy can get babies off to a strong start as they support fetal brain development. Additionally, nursing mothers who get adequate amounts of Omega-3s or babies who get a DHA supplement or are fed a DHA-fortified formula show fewer delays, higher intelligence, and stronger communication and social skills.
Can Help Those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
There is evidence that Omega-3s can help to ease hyperactivity and help people with ADHD. From memory issues to sleep, research has been shown to help people with ADHD in many areas of their lives.
Omega-3s Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Decades ago, scientific research found that populations that rely on fish consumption in their diets, such as Greenland Eskimos and indigenous populations in Canada have much lower rates of heart attacks and strokes.
After years of research, it was found that omega-3s have many health benefits and can help people with different health conditions.
Here are some of the health benefits:
- Lowering triglycerides
- Helping to lower high blood pressure
- Raising “good” cholesterol
- Reducing arterial plaque
- Reducing chronic inflammation that can cause coronary heart disease
As you can see getting enough omega-3s helps the human body greatly and reduce your risk of developing a serious illness.
Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration
Besides cardiovascular benefits, research has also shown that people who eat more fish were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. This eye condition is very serious and can lead to blindness. One study showed that people with a healthy balance of Omega 3s and Omega-6 fatty acids were also less likely to develop macular degeneration.
Reduce Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes occur when your immune system is overactive and begins attacking its own tissues. For example, with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.
Reduce the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
With omega-3s being so essential to brain health, researchers began focusing on seeing if higher omega-3 intake would reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and limit age-related dementia. One study found that fish consumption can protect against dementia, especially slowing cognitive decline. A dozen epidemiological studies have found a connection that reduced intake of omega-3 increases the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Ways To Add More Omega-3s to Your Diet
Because they are so essential to good health, you do want to make sure you’re getting omega-3s in your diet regularly. One of the best ways to add more Omega-3s is to revamp your diet. Dietary interventions don’t mean only increasing your fish intake. Other foods can also give you the right amount of Omega-3s in your diet. These include:
Walnuts deliver more ALA, the plant-based omega-3, than any other nut.
When you want a fish rich in omega-3s, opt for salmon, mackerel, sardines, or rainbow trout. They offer DHA and EPA, which have so many health benefits. Many people often worry about their fish consumption because of the mercury in fish, but the benefits of omega-3s outweigh any health risks.
Flaxseed is rich in ALA which may help lower blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease. The body absorbs ALA from ground flaxseed better than whole. It’s best to refrigerate flaxseed as well. Flaxseed oil is also another option.
Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb
Red meat from grass-fed animals has 50 percent more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than regular meat. While it’s still best to eat fish to get your omega-3 fatty acid intake, health professionals believe that since people eat so much more meat, getting it from grass-fed animals is the better option.
While those foods give you the most “bang for your buck,” even eating fish that’s leaner like tilapia, mahi-mahi, and flounder offer around 200 mg, which is much more than other proteins.
Fish Oil Supplements
Dietary supplements such as fish oil supplements can also help to increase omega-3 intake. Taking fish oil supplements from small fish, like sardines, can help to keep mercury content low. Cod liver oil is also another popular when it comes to fish oil supplementation. They can help people with heart disease have a lower risk of heart attack.
These fish oil supplements are often a good alternative for people who don’t like to eat fish. Always talk with your doctor before taking any fish oil supplement. Always follow their medical expertise.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
While you want to eat foods that have a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy adults also want to watch their weight. Exercise and lowering calorie intake are essential because excess weight can strain the body and make it more difficult to transport and store fats.
Visit Our Raleigh Seafood Restaurant for Delicious Fresh Fish
If you like to eat fish and want to increase your omega-3 intake, visit us at the Raleigh Farmers Market. While we’re known as the best Calabash seafood restaurant in Raleigh, we also encourage you to indulge in delicious, broiled seafood for a lighter, healthier option! Check out our menu and order online for a carry-out!