As Nutritionists, one of the questions we are asked frequently is “If there is one supplement you would take every day, which one would it be?” The answer is always the same – Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Why? It is because the human body cannot make these fatty acids on its own.
The only way to consume them is by eating high-quality fish like wild-caught salmon or through a high-quality supplement. Getting enough of Omega 3 essential fatty acids is crucial because they are important for the function and formation of every cell membrane in your body.
Exactly, What Are Omega 3s?
Unsaturated fatty acids, Omega 3s are incredibly important for the optimum functioning of the body. Actually, there are two types of essential fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6.
The reason they are called “essential” is the human body cannot manufacture them but can be found in marine life and plants. They include alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA).
Omega 3s are used to treat many health conditions for the mind and body. In fact, omega-3s have been studied more thoroughly than any other nutrient that help support good health. They include:
Benefits of Omega-3s for Your Body
The cell membrane of our cells requires Omega-3 essential fatty acids to act as a gatekeeper of the cell that regulates what goes in and out of our cells. When our cells are working properly, important nutrients enter our cells while allowing the waste products to exit, protecting our cells in the process.
Here are more Omega-3 health benefits to consider:
1. Supports healthy thyroid function
By producing hormones that regulate metabolism, digestion, and aid in heart health
2. Reduces inflammation
Throughout your body by creating prostaglandins that help you heal from illness and injuries
3. Promotes immune system health
Promotes immune system health by preventing ‘leaky gut syndrome’ where undigested food particles and bacteria can leak into your bloodstream – omega-3s prevent your gut wall from becoming thin and weak to prevent that from happening
3. Support blood clotting
When needed to seal off any damaged area in the body while also reducing blood clotting as your body heals by taking the blood clots away when they are no longer needed.
4. Better blood circualtion
Aids your heart in moving blood around your body more efficiently for better circulation and supports a healthy heart rhythm.
5. Lifts your mood
By reducing inflammation in the brain, Omega 3s helps you manage your mood. Also helps prevent peri-natal mood imbalances in women who have given birth
6. Never dry eyes again
Helps prevent ‘wet’ macular degeneration in your eyes as well as ‘dry’ eye.
7. Helps you have a better sleep
Thanks to melatonin stimulation, fatty acids assists you in getting a good night by improving sleep quality.
8. Stronger bones
Sustains calcium balance in your body for optimum bone strength
Omega 3 Health Benefits for Your Hair
Healthy shine, luster, and hair growth are just a few of the benefits you will notice when you ingest enough omega-3s. Omega-3s also help prevent itchy, flaky, dry skin and scalp and are beneficial in preventing hair loss.
Getting enough vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3s will go a long way in encouraging your hair to grow in a faster, healthier way by opening the hair follicles that promote hair growth.
When it comes to healthy, shiny hair, you can’t find a better supplement to take than omega-3. This means that proper nutrition is key for healthy hair, and fatty acids help to promote hair growth, as well as add sheen and luster to hair.
Proper amount of omega-3 in your diet prevents dry, itchy, flaky scalp and is beneficial in reversing hair loss.
Remember, healthy hair equals a healthy diet.
Omega-3 Health Benefits for Your Skin
You can’t beat Omega-3s to moisturize your skin from the inside out that will leave your skin clear, glowing, supple, and with less wrinkles. If you or someone you know has any kind of skin condition, such as psoriasis, omega-3s can help reduce the symptoms of scaly, dry patches that can be so frustrating.
Psoriasis is basically an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy body tissue. In other words, the immune system sends out defective signals that speed up the growth cycles of skin cells. (source)
Supplementing with Omega-3s is one of the best things you can do for yourself when you are dealing with a skin condition like psoriasis because they help protect the cell membranes from damage caused by inflammation. Omega-3s also prevent and kill bacteria, parasites, and candida while boosting the immune system.
Learn more on our foods list to strengthen your immune system
Reducing inflammation in the circulation of the body including the digestive system is key in treating psoriasis. Omega-3s can help significantly when it comes to treating this frustrating skin condition.
Omega-3s Health Benefits for Your Mind
As a Nutritionist, I have always recommended Omega-3 essential fatty acids to my clients for many years now. Interestingly enough, many told me that their symptoms of depression and mood swings lessened considerably.
As it turns out, studies show that it also helps those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and dementia.
A gradual and often fatal degenerative brain disorder, Alzheimer’s disease is the major cause of dementia that is due to the changes involving amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Oxidative stress and inflammation can cause the development of these malformations.
Omega-3s support the health of nerve cell membranes and act as regulators of oxidative stress and inflammation. Since the body cannot make Omega-3s, it is essential that we get them from foods like fish or high-quality supplements, something that has become rather scarce in today’s modern world.
Instead, excessive saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids have become more prevalent.
The major omega-3 fatty acid found in nerve cells is known as DHA (docasahexanoic acid) and plays a huge role in preventing neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, low levels of DHA are connected to dementia and faster mental decline.
Increasing your intake of fatty fish has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, specifically DHA that helps eliminate the toxic protein, amyloid, that can accumulate in the plaques in the brain, depending on the stage of the disease.
Prevention is key. In other words, it is best to get enough omega-3 fatty acids before any cognitive decline or symptoms begin. However, it is important to avoid too many omega-6 fatty acids as these are polyunsaturated fats that can lead to an increased risk for autoimmune diseases, inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Basically, you want to increase your omega-3 fatty acids and decrease omega-6 fats.
Here are the foods you want to AVOID as much as possible:
Healthier Omega-6 foods include:
According to the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, the amount of omega-3 and DHA to omega-6 fatty acid profiles were lower in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (source). Continued studies have shown that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may be cancelled out due to too much of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.
Hundreds of years ago, people in the Western world ate twice as many omega-6 foods as those with omega-3 fatty acids. In today’s diets, that amount has quadrupled.
Omega-3 Benefits for Men
If you are a man who exercises regularly, then you may want to consider ingesting more omega-3 fatty acids that will help in relieving muscle aches and pains, as well as joint stiffness.
This anti-inflammatory support helps reduce swelling, improve arterial health while increasing blood flow throughout the body.
Of course, exercise helps improve mood and the DHA in omega-3 essential fatty acids can also improve focus, cognition, and mental clarity while slowing down the aging process including prevention of memory loss.
1. Improve Arterial Health
Since omega-3s help improve arterial health, this can result in raised dopamine levels that trigger arousal.
2. Boost Fertility
The University of Illinois conducted a study that showed DHA also plays an important role in the formation of sperm, specifically the part of sperm that can pierce the outer layer of the female egg for fertilization. Sperm remain rounded at the top and lack the critical enzymes that support fertilization without DHA. (source)
3. Improve cardiovascular health
The benefits of Omega-3s for men doesn’t stop there – they have been shown to improve cardiovascular health while lowering triglycerides and supporting the health of cells.
This can help prevent normal healthy cells from turning into cancerous ones whereby the risk of developing prostate and colon cancer can be reduced. Clinical studies continue to show that Omega-3s can improve health in men.
Omega-3 Health Benefits for Women
If you are planning for pregnancy, are pregnant or nursing, then you should consume omega-3 essential fatty acids to support both your baby’s health as well as your own.
1. Pre-eclampsia prevention
Omega-3s can help prevent pre-eclampsia, increase birth weight and reduce the risk of premature labor. Plus, they can prevent the risk of developing postpartum depression after giving birth.
2. Reduce joint pains
Other health benefits of omega-3s for women include reducing the joint pain and stiffness common in rheumatoid arthritis. Studies are ongoing to decipher the health benefits of omega-3s when it comes to diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis, lupus, and asthma.
3. Help dealing with period pains
A recent study showed a reduction in women dealing with menstrual pain by ingesting omega-3s.
Food sources of omega-3s provide higher blood levels of essential fatty acids than supplements do, however supplementing with a high-quality Omega-3 in liquid capsule form is a good idea simply because many people do not get enough of them from food alone.
Always read the label on the bottle, however most experts recommend 1-2 capsules or 1 tablespoon of fish oil every day to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss. This dosage will also help reduce dry skin, scalp and inflammation. Supplementing with vitamin E helps prevent degradation of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 sources
Eating fatty fish twice a week is one of the best ways to ensure that you are getting enough Omega-3s. Here are good sources to consider:
Good Fish Sources of Omega 3
Cold-water fish should be your first choice for omega-3s and add some alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that can be found in dark, leafy greens, nuts and ground flaxseeds.
If you are not a fan of fish, then consider a high-quality omega-3 supplement, but you should check with your doctor first, especially if you are pregnant or planning for a pregnancy in the future.
Please note: Choose smaller fish whenever possible because larger fish, such as swordfish and tuna, have higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their flesh. My favorite place to order the best, wild seafood is Vital Choice.
Nuts and Seeds include:
Please note: Plant sources contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which your body has to convert to Omega-3 essential fatty acids in your liver. Therefore, you should not rely on plant sources only to get your Omega-3s.
Best Omega 3 Cooking Oil
The best oils to use for cooking include :
Except for olive oil, the avocado, ghee butter and coconut oil can be used at higher cooking temperatures because they are quite stable and provide conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that is high in vitamins A, D, Omega 3s, and butyric acid.
CLA has been proved to fight cancer, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.
Please note: Omega 3 essential fatty acids should not be exposed to light, heat, and air for prolonged periods of time because it oxidizes the oil and turns it rancid. Avoid cooking with them for a long period of time to avoid removing the health benefits.
Other Good Sources of Omega-3s
Krill oil is extracted from a creature that is similar to shrimp and is absorbed better than fish oil. It contains a powerful antioxidant known as astaxanthin that helps prevent oxidation. Since these creatures don’t live long, they are not exposed to or contain as many toxins, so the purification process is not necessary.
Sometimes, krill oil is hard to find because some stores will not carry it as they believe it takes away food from the whales in the ocean.
Native to New Zealand, green-lipped mussel oil is considered an environmentally-friendly choice of omega-3s. They deliver ETA, DHA, EPA, and ETA, a rare form of omega-3s that is more effective in taming inflammation in the body.
Marine algae contain DHA and EPA and is a more concentrated source than fish oil. Actually, algae are the original food of the earth and source of EPA and DHA found in fish. It is a great choice for vegans or vegetarians and includes important minerals such as iodine. Free of contaminants, algal oil is a smart choice and can help meet the growing need for healthy omega-3s.
What to Look for in an Omega-3 Supplement
If you live in an area where fish is not readily available, then choosing a high-quality omega-3 supplement is the way to go. However, when you walk into a health food store and see the endless selection of supplements available, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Which one do you choose that will help strengthen your cardiovascular system and elevate your overall health?
Here are some important factors that you need to be aware of when reading the labels to make an informed decision when choosing an omega-3 that is best for you:
You want to look for supplements that contain fewer ethyl esters and are less processed so they can be more easily absorbed by your body. Take the time to read the labels and choose an omega-3 that is all natural, specifically the EPA and DHA content. In other words, a 1,000 mg capsule may not be enough if the EPA and DHA content is low.
If you want to have a look, we recently did a review of Omega XL supplement.
Look for the GOED standard of purity that should appear somewhere on the label that will indicate that the produce is safe and what is on the label is what is in the product.
A good quality omega-3 supplement will also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that will allow for maximum absorption in the body. Of course, make sure you check the expiration date that should be stamped in a visible location on the label.
Omega-3s support lean muscle tissue by reducing the breakdown of protein, improve cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, help prevent depression, Alzheimer’s disease, skin and other types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, while promoting healthy skin.
A good quality omega-3 supplement can help fill the void of several nutrients that you cannot get from the food you eat. If you can’t include fatty fish in your diet, adding a high-quality omega-3 supplement is an excellent option for optimum health and vitality.