You may not realize it, but there aren’t many things in your diet as important as Omega-3 fatty acids, also called omega-3s. In fact, you’ve probably heard that you should include omega-3s in your diet in order to avoid heart disease. But there is more that this nutrient can do for your health. For example, omega-3 benefits include fetal development, retinal function, and weight management, to name a few.
These fatty acids aren’t called “essential” for nothing. Yep, they are both crucial and beneficial for anyone’s overall health. But did you know there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids? Let’s break those down:
First up, ALA, or alpha-lipoic acid, can be found in plant foods, like chia and hemp seeds. Then we have DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, typically comes from meat and fish, but exciting new products bring a vegan form of DHA to market. Lastly, we need EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid. Many products containing EPA also contain DHA, so it’s hard to separate their benefits. Not only are omega-3s important, but the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats is another key to health.
Therefore, you’ll want to discover several amazing omega-3 benefits below.
Here are 11 omega-3 benefits:
1. Good for Heart Health
Arguably, one of the most well-known omega-3 benefits is the ability to lower risk of heart disease. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death all around the world. However, populations who consume sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids experience significantly lower occurrences of these risks. (1, 2)
Here are the various ways in which omega-3 benefits your heart health:
Lowers Triglyceride Levels
According to the American Heart Association, those with high triglycerides, which is a huge risk factor for heart disease, need the highest amount of omega-3s. Omega-3 supplements can help lower these triglyceride levels in patients with or without the diseases. (5, 6, 7)
The radio of HDL to LDL should be close to 2:1.
Lowers High Blood Pressure
One study found that three servings of salmon each week helped lower blood pressure in young, overweight people. This occurred over an eight-week period. (10)
For those avoiding fish, there are plenty of other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, of course. And while this study doesn’t necessarily prove that omega-3s lower blood pressure, it is a promising start.
Prevents Plaque Buildup
Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms: Abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol are all symptoms of metabolic syndrome. This cluster of symptoms makes it more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. However, several studies show omega-3s can improve these symptoms and may also help protect you from related diseases. (13, 14, 15, 16)
Prevents Blood Clots
Omega-3s benefits your heart by helping keep your platelets from clumping together. (17)
2. May Fight Mental Disorders and Decline
Omega-3s benefits extend to your brain and mental health, as well:
Depression and Anxiety: These afflictions are common in today’s world. Unfortunately, a lot of depression remedies can be ineffective. This is where omega-3 benefits come into play again. Those who consume large amounts of omega-3s are less likely to struggle with depression than those who are omega-3 deficient. (18)
Furthermore, several studies indicate that those suffering from depression and/or anxiety experience a reduction in symptoms by taking omega-3 supplements. These results maintained even in double-blinded, randomized controlled trials. (19, 20, 21, 22, 23)
In fact, one study found that omega-3s are just as effective as a common depression medication. (24)
Schizophrenia: The Saint Louis University School of Medicine found that omega-3s are effective in treating schizophrenia, especially in the early stages of the disease. (26)
Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, can be a debilitating condition. However, evidence suggests that omega-3 benefits include stabilizing mood, thereby improving symptoms for bipolar sufferers. (27)
Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Mental Decline: Omega-3s may also have a neuroprotective effect, which is beneficial for those suffering from dementia, age-related mental decline and even Alzheimer’s disease. High levels of omega-3s, it would seem, can help slow or even reverse cognitive decline. (30, 31, 32)
3. Reduce Inflammation
As you may know, inflammation is the root cause of most diseases. Consuming a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet will give your body a fighting chance against disease.
4. Linked to Preventing and Managing Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, leaky gut syndrome, and many more. However, multiple studies show that omega-3s can potentially decrease risk for development of these diseases, as well as improve symptoms. It may even help reverse diabetes. Some of these studies indicate the best results occur from consuming omega-3s in large amounts in the first year of life. (38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44)
5. Associated with Lowered Cancer Risks
Several studies conducted overtime indicate that omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of certain cancers. For example, according to studies out of Scotland and China, those who consume more-long chain omega-3s (DHA and EPA) seem to experience a reduce risk of colorectal cancer. (45, 46)
Other studies show omega-3s may help slow or reverse hormonal cancer growth, such as prostate and breast cancer. (47) Furthermore, one study suggests that turmeric may be enhanced with fighting pancreatic cancer when combined with omega-3 fatty acids. (48)
6. May Support Healthy Bones & Joints
Omega-3 benefits extend to your bones and joints, as well. For example, they can help prevent osteoporosis and improve joint pain. Essential fatty acids, omega-3s included, can increase the amount of calcium you absorb from your gut and improve the strength of your bones and synthesis of bone collagen.(49)
Furthermore, small randomized, controlled trials have indicated that elderly people who supplement with EPA saw an increase in bone density. This was in comparison to placebo groups, whose bone density, overtime, decreased.(50)
Omega-3s may also help improve arthritis. Studies from the 1950s showed that 93 percent of patients who received cod liver oil saw an improvement in symptoms. Of course, it’s important to note that there are plenty of plant-based omega-3 sources. (51, 52)
7. Might Improve Sleep Quality
8. Beneficial for Infant and Child Development
It would seem that the most crucial time to get enough omega-3s is during infancy and childhood. Omega-3s, specifically DHA and EPA, help brain and eye development in children. (54)
It’s also important that pregnant moms get enough omega-3s. This helps with mental processing, psychomotor, hand-eye coordination and audial processing tests conducted at nine months and four years of age. Furthermore, these children seem to have a lower risk of developing ADHD.
Breast milk can be a fantastic source of omega-3 fats, so long as the mother is getting enough omega-3s herself. Formulas don’t always contain enough of the nutrient. However, DHA-fortified formula can help babies with both visual and cognitive development.
Additionally, EPA and DHA may help prevent cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders and asthma in some children.
9. May Fight Menstrual Pain
Menstrual cramps can be debilitating for some women. The good news is that omega-3s, according to research, can significantly improve menstrual-related cramps.
In fact, one study compared ibuprofen and fish oil supplements during adolescent PMS. Researchers found that the supplement worked better than the medication in relieving menstrual pain. (55)
10. Linked to Lowered Macular Degeneration Risk
DHA and EPA are necessary to retinal health and may help protect the eyes from disease, according to the National Eye Institute.
Specifically, high omega-3 levels are linked with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in those over 60 years old.
11. Support Healthy Skin & Slow Aging
So how can you take advantage of these omega-3 benefits?
Below is a list of some great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. As a guideline, the percentages are based on a 4,000 milligrams per day.
1. Walnuts: 2,664 milligrams in 1/4 cup (66 percent DV)
2. Chia Seeds: 2,457 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (61 percent DV)
3. Flaxseeds: (ground): 1,597 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (39 percent DV)
4. Hemp Seeds: 1,000 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (25 percent DV)
5. Natto: 428 milligrams in 1/4 cup (10 percent DV)
Furthermore, algae is a good source of omega-3s as well. Of course, those who don’t eat fish need to find an alternative source, and algae provides that.
Please note that we need to consume some DHA and EPA. Therefore, you may want to be sure you’re getting what you need.
- Cymbiotika DHA-EPA (Vegan from Algae and Sea Buckthorn)
- Anchovies: 951 milligrams in 1 can/2 ounces (23 percent DV) Atlantic Mackerel: 6,982 milligrams in 1 cup cooked (174 percent DV)
- Herring: 1,885 milligrams in 3 ounces (47 percent DV)
- Albacore Tuna: 1,414 milligrams in 3 ounces (35 percent DV)
- White Fish: 1,363 milligrams in 3 ounces (34 percent DV) Sardines: 1,363 milligrams in 1 can/3.75 ounces (34 percent DV)
- Alaskan Salmon (wild-caught): 1,716 milligrams in 3 ounces (42 percent DV)
- Egg Yolks: 240 milligrams in 1/2 cup (6 percent DV)