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Sara Pindera
Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. A Canadian with a love of food, fitness and health. https://www.youtube.com/c/msmaddhatt/

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Health and fitness benefits

You may have seen or heard of Omega-6, or more likely, Omega-3 fatty acids. These days companies are trying to put them in everything, juice, butter, cereal... and it’s become even more popular lately as a supplement. They have so many benefits, it's hard to keep track. In this article we will explain the health and fitness benefits of Omega-3.

Omega-6 and Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that our body needs to function properly. More often than not, we get enough Omega-6, since there are plenty of foods that contain it, but we don’t get enough Omega-3. Most companies might say their products include Omega-3, but you are likely still not getting enough.

There are 3 types of Omega-3

DHA, EPA and ALA.

DHA and EPA are found in certain fish and fish oils, whereas ALA is found in plant nuts and seeds. ALA is actually converted in our bodies to DHA and EPA, which are the source of all the benefits attached to ‘omega-3’. Unfortunately only a small amount of ALA is able to be converted, which is why you need to have fish sourced DHA and EPA in order to get the benefits. A lot of companies tend to put ALA Omega-3’s in their product, just so they can say they contain Omega-3.

Not to say ALA is bad, but DHA and EPA are simply better. This is why you likely don’t get enough Omega fats, and why supplementation can be important for your health and fitness.

Omega-3: EPA and DHA

They are found in certain kinds of fish:

  • Salmon (Higher omega in wild salmon.)
  • Wild Trout
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna

Any fish that are farm raised are likely to have higher levels of toxins like mercury, PCBs, ext. The safest option, especially for pregnant women and children, is to eat less fish and take fish oil supplements, or stick to wild salmon and trout, which tend to be the safest to consume in higher amounts.

Omega-3: ALA

It's found in nuts and seeds.

  • Canola Oil
  • Soy / Soybean Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed/Flaxseed Oil

As I mentioned, Omegas are also available in supplement form. But when you’re at the store, possibly overwhelmed by the options for Omega related supplements, keep in mind that although there are plenty of options to choose from, to get the most bang for your buck ensure you get ~1000 mg of fish oil that contains EPA and DHA as the primary sources of omegas.

Although it may say to take anywhere from 1-4 tablets per day, the safest bet is to take two or maximum three tablets a day (~3000mg total). Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to, or be asked to take more, but rely on your doctor to make that call.

What are the health and fitness benefits of Omega-3?

Omega-3 have so many benefits:

  • Keeps your heart healthy and strong.
  • Lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels (fats circulating in the blood).
  • Helps with joint pain and osteoporosis and can improve the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Also helps in other inflammatory-centered diseases like asthma, crohn's and irritable bowel disease..
  • Helps with depression and can improve the effects of antidepressants.
  • There is also some research saying that Omega-3 can help with ADHD, Asthma, dementia, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Here's a workout you can do at home:

In summary

Let’s recap what you just learned about Omega-3:

  • Omega 6 and Omega-3 are essential fatty acids, and we do not get enough Omega-3.
  • There are 3 types of Omega-3, DHA, EPA and ALA. All available in food and supplement form.
  • DHA and EPA are the most important Omega-3’s, and are found in certain fish and fish oils.
  • ALA is found in plant sources like nuts and seeds, and small amounts of it are transformed into DHA and EPA.
  • DHA and EPA are the cause of countless benefits to our bodies!

References:

  • Jouris, K. B., McDaniel, J. L., & Weiss, E. P. (2011). The effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the inflammatory response to eccentric strength exercise. Journal of sports science & medicine, 10(3), 432.
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