Omega-3 is one of the buzzy terms we hear often, but there is a lot of conflicting information out there, which results in many misconceptions about it. Below, we give a run-down on everything you need to know about this fatty acid and debunk some myths surrounding this essential nutrient.
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a family of fatty acids essential for overall well-being, especially the health of our heart, brain, joints and eyes. They are an important component of cell membranes, which support smooth cellular communication within our bodies. As polyunsaturated fats, they also help to lower cholesterol levels and protect us from heart diseases.
There are three main types of omega-3s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in marine fish such as herring and salmon, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which are found primarily in plants. ALA, which can be found in foods such as kale, spinach, soybeans, walnuts, and many seeds, such as chia and flax, is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in your diet. However, it needs to be converted into EPA or DHA before it can be utilised by your body for something other than energy. The conversion process from ALA is usually inefficient in humans, which means we need to derive these fats from our diet or through supplements.
What are the health benefits of omega-3s?
Research has shown that omega-3s (EPA and DHA) may help maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce triglyceride (a type of fat found in the blood) levels within the body. High triglyceride levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease and other conditions. It can also reduce chronic inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer and various other diseases.
Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are also beneficial for the brain: Studies show that omega-3s may improve cognitive function amongst adults, support healthy fetal brain development during pregnancy and improve joint functions. DHA is also an important nutrient for the cells in the eyes.
However, do note that desirable results for the above-mentioned conditions may be achieved only when sufficient amounts are consumed. Do visit your healthcare professional to discuss on the safety of use and appropriate doses.
And finally, what are some of the common misconceptions about omega-3? Read the list below to find out.