All About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

salmonHow much do you know about omega-3 fatty acids? They are one of the building blocks of health, but you might be surprised to learn that most people do not get enough of them. Have no fear, because after you’re done reading this guide you’ll be an expert on one of the building blocks of your life – the omega-3’s!

What Are Omega- Fatty Acids, Anyway?

If you want to get really technical, omega-3s are fatty acids in the polyunsaturated family of fats. They are considered essential fats because your body needs them to be healthy. However, these fats have to be ingested. Your body can’t produce them on their own like they can other fats.

The Trinity of Fats

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids that you need to include in your diet. The first of them is called eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. EPA is found in fish oil, seafood and fatty fish such as salmon. You need EPA to help your body reduce inflammation, so it’s pretty important.

The second type of omega-3 fatty acid is called docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. Just like EPA, DHA is found in fish oil, fatty fish, seafood but also algae. You need DHA to keep the cells in your body, particularly the nerve cells of the brain and eyes, healthy. DHA is also very important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as it helps babies with the development of their nervous system and is found in breast milk.

The third type of omega-3 fatty acid is called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. You can find ALA in items such as flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. It is the most common omega-3 fat in the average diet, but it’s not very active in the body in its original state. Your body has to first turn it into EPA or DHA before it can be used and it’s not a very efficient body process in humans. So, ALA shouldn’t be relied on as your only source for omega-3’s, since most of the ALA you eat will simply get used by your body as energy.

Where to Get Omega-3’s

Fish such as salmon, sardines and anchovies are the best sources of this fatty acid, but you can also get it by eating:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts

So, now you know all about omega-3 fatty acids and you can start incorporating them into your diet regularly to keep you healthy!

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Portland Corps

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