The term omega 3 most often refers to a group of fatty acids. There are two major types of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets: One type is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in some vegetable oils, such as soybean, and rapeseed (canola), flaxseed, and walnuts. ALA is also found in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. The other type, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in fatty fish.
The body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA. However, research clearly indicates that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is extremely limited. Less than 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA, and less than 0.5% (one-half of one percent) of ALA is converted to DHA. Hence though it is a great idea to eat green leafy vegetables (which provide ALA), it is also important to consume fatty fish or supplements as a source of EPA and DHA!
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fats offer many benefits to the body!
- Lowers LDL cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease
- Omega 3 Increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the severity of symptoms associated with diabetes
- Reduces pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduces the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss
- Improves health, better immune response and reduces the symptoms of autoimmune disease
- Helps with anxiety and depression
- Reduces the risk of various types of cancers
- Better nerve function and Improves cognitive function
- Better hormone function
- Reduces inflammation and faster muscle recovery
- Better kidney function and fluid balance
- Increased energy production
- Better oxygen use
- Helps with constipation
- Better cell growth and softer smoother skin
- For conception and during pregnancy
The ratio is important!
Omega-3s are important, but what is even more important, is consuming a healthy ratio of Omega-6 (n-6) and Omega 3 (n-3) fats. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats are considered polyunsaturated fats because they have many double bonds. In general, we need much smaller amounts of these fats than we do other fats like saturated and monounsaturated fats, but they are still vitally important. Our bodies aren’t able to produce polyunsaturated fats so we must get them from the diet, this is the reason they are called “essential fatty acids”.
Omega-6 fats are found in many processed foods, vegetable oils, processed grains, and soy. Omega-6 fats increase inflammation while Omega-3 fats can help reduce inflammation. Since n-6 fats are present in many processed foods, it is easy to understand why most of us get plenty of these in our diets. In fact, many people get way too much in their diets! (source)
The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is thought to be around 1:1 (and not higher than 4:1). Most people are consuming much higher amounts of Omega-6 fats (up to 30:1). Higher amounts of Omega-6 can contribute to inflammation within the body and to disease. Hence it is imperative to Increase Omega-3 consumption with food and supplements and most importantly decrease Omega-6 consumption.
Application of omega 3 fats :
Exercising fitness enthusiast:
- Fat loss: Due to better insulin sensitivity, and higher thermogenic effect
- Muscle Gain: Due to better insulin sensitivity
And overall better muscle recovery and nutrient uptake
Medical Conditions :
- Diabetic clients: due to insulin sensitivity
- Heart patients: Due to reduced Bp, clotting, and cholesterol
Nervous system Disorders :
- RA: due to anti-inflammatory effect
- Depression & ADHD: Due to better nerve signal transmission
- Water retention/ menopause: due to improved fluid balance
A good way to optimize omega 3 benefits is to consume foods that are nutrient-dense and adopt healthy lifestyle measures. Remember food is information to the body. It determines the quality of the cells, tissues, and organs. Lifestyle is medicine. And when both these tools are incorporated meticulously into the body, they create healing properties!
- Indulge in healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish, raw nuts, and seeds
- Whole unprocessed grains such as amaranth, brown rice, and quinoa
- High-quality protein from eggs, lean meat, legumes, and pulses
- Adequate water
- Regular exercise with good rest and recovery
- 7-8 hours sleep
- Reduce stress
- Adequate vitamin D levels