Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most beneficial fats in the body. It contains polyunsaturated fats that are used as building blocks for brain cells. It is also an ideal fat to maintain heart health. It can maintain a healthy heart and can also help in curing heart diseases. Our body does not make these fats. It comes from the diet only. The anti-inflammatory property of these nutrients is the major use of these fats.
What are omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of fats that have the polyunsaturated chain of carbon-hydrogen bond. The ‘polyunsaturated’ refers to the double bonds in each of the fatty acid chains. The more the double bonds in the fat, the more beneficial it is for the body. The saturated fats are unhealthy as they have only single bonds between the carbon-hydrogen bonds. This makes them vulnerable and can easily go into unwanted storage fats.
The Omega 3 fatty acids have the double bond on the third carbon of the chain, thus getting its name. Though there is another beneficial omega fatty acid named Omega-6, the omega-3 fatty acids are the more beneficial ones for the heart. The combination of omega-3s and omega-6 is more useful for getting better results. The presence of omega-6 fats can enhance the effects of omega-3 fats.
Types of Omega-3 fatty acids
There are 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- ALA- Alpha-Linolenic Acid is a short chain omega-3 fatty acid. It helps regulate the blood sugar, has antioxidant property, regulates blood cholesterol etc. ALA is found in leafy vegetables and flaxseeds.
- EPA-Eicosapentaenoic acid is a 20 carbon chain fatty acid. It is found in fish oil, Krill oil, and algae oil. Our body is capable of making this fatty acid. It is also one of the essential fatty acids. It is good for the heart, joints, and mental development. It is also beneficial for weight management.
- DHA- Docosahexaenoic acid is the longest chain omega fatty acid with 22 carbons. It is also the most beneficial form of Omega-3. It has wider uses ranging from regulating blood pressure and cholesterol, brain development, vision health and heart health improvement etc. It is obtained from fish oil, algae oil and krill oil.
Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health
Omega-3 fatty acids are highly beneficial for the heart as it can act in so many ways to rectify the problems that lead to heart diseases. The benefits are
- Reduction in triglycerides
- Cure irregular heart heat
- Reduce plaque formation in the arteries
- Lowers the blood pressure
The primary benefit is to reduce the triglyceride level in the body. The usual diet contains more of the saturated fats. The body does not use these fats completely. They are converted into triglycerides as energy sources for later use. When there are more of these fats, the triglyceride level in the blood is also increased. When we replace the saturated fats with omega-3 fats, the triglycerides levels come down.
Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat has been causing death in many. Though there are medications to regularize the heartbeat, they have their side effects. Omega-3 fatty acids have the rhythm stabilizing effects on the heartbeat. It can cure this problem without causing any side effects. It is also found that people who suffer irregular heartbeat have low levels of omega-3 in their body.
The plaque in the arteries is the accumulation of LDL- the bad cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the plaque condition by removing this adhered cholesterol from the arterial walls. The platelet aggression and blood clot is another reason for blocked arteries. Omega-3 can help in dilating the blood and reduce the chances of blood clots.
Reduction in the blood pressure: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the blockage in the arteries and eliminate the physical barriers that lead to high blood pressure. The EPA and DHA can lower both the systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Though there is no major reduction in the blood pressure value, this small value can have a larger impact on the heart functions. The anti-inflammatory effects of the omega-3s also play its part to reduce pressure on the heart.
Other uses of omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-3 fats can reduce inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases, psoriasis, reduce chances of cancer, heart attacks due to inflammation of the arteries etc.
- It has positive effects on blood sugar level as it can regulate the insulin.
- Omega-3 fats can protect against the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia etc.
- Reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.
- The fish oil can reduce asthma by controlling the inflammations and also by improving the lung functions.
- Better vision as the DHA is a major component of the retina. It can prevent permanent eye damage and blindness.
- Improves bone and joint health
- Reduce liver fat
- Fight and reduce auto-immune diseases
- It can reduce menstrual pain
- Improve sleep
- Maintain healthy skin
Amount of omega-3s in the diet
Omega-3s come from the daily diet. The recommended amount of omega-3 for an adult is 2 servings of 100 gm per week. The major sources of omega-3s are,
- Fishes such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and tuna
- The vegetarian sources are flaxseeds, walnuts, soy oil, chia seeds, tofu, canola oil, olive oil, avocados, spirulina etc.
There are several supplements that have omega-3s. It would be better to take it from the natural sources. You can add a little of each of the natural sources in the daily diet. This way, you are getting the positive effects of omega-3s and can get the other benefits from these sources, especially the plant-based ones like flaxseeds, chia seeds etc. They can offer more fiber and other minerals as well.