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, it’s also high in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B, Vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorous.
One of the key reasons to make fish a part of your regular diet is because most varieties are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. You may have heard of omega-3s or seen the supplements at the drug store, but you aren’t sure what they are or why they are so important to good health.
That’s what we’re going to 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 diet!
Understanding Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a group of essential polyunsaturated fats, and there are actually 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 oils.
Health Benefits of Omega-3s
Not only are these fatty acids important for energy and supporting the structure of your brain and eyes, studies have shown they support other areas of your health, including:
Promoting Brain Health During Pregnancy
Getting enough omega-3s 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 DHA-fortified formula show fewer delays, higher intelligence, and stronger communication and social skills.
Omega-3s Support Heart Health
Decades ago, scientific research found that populations that rely on fish 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 are the reason for this by assisting with:
- Lowering triglycerides
- Reducing blood pressure
- Raising “good” cholesterol
- Reducing arterial plaque
- Reducing chronic inflammation that can cause heart disease.
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.
Studies show that getting the right amount of omega-3 fish oils can be especially beneficial to reducing symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and colitis.
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, and a dozen epidemiological studies have found a connection that reduced intake of omega-3 increases the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Getting the Right Amount of Omega-3s
Because they are so essential to good health, you do want to make sure you’re getting omega-3s in your diet regularly. While you can take supplements, your body can more easily process them from foods, especially:
- Ground flax seeds
- Chia Seeds
While those foods give you the most “bang for your buck,” even leaner fish like tilapia, mahi-mahi, and flounder offer around 200 mg, which is much more than other proteins.
Visit Our Raleigh Seafood Restaurant for Delicious Fresh Fish
If you don’t want to cook, but you still want a healthier meal, visit us at the Farmers Market. While we’re known as the best Calabash seafood restaurant in Raleigh, we also have delicious broiled seafood plates for a lighter option! Check out our menu and order online for a carry-out!