By: Zyana Morris
Normally we try to stay away from fats because of the negative effects they bring upon our health. However, there is a type of fat that we are encouraged to include in our diets. These are the omega-3 fatty acids, scientifically termed as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). They are also called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Omega-3 fatty acids are important elements of cell members and lead to several other substances within the body for instance the ones that regulate blood pressure and inflammatory responses. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been found to be good for heart and including them in your diet means keeping yourself away from heart diseases. They help with the growth and repair functions of the body as well. Omega-3 fatty acids are also being looked into for the part that they may possibly play in the prevention of diabetes and particular cancers.
Benefits of including omega-3 in your diet
High cholesterol: Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are particularly helpful for people with high cholesterol. There are actually two kinds of cholesterol in the human body – LDL, which is bad for the body, and HDL which is good. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet helps lower down the levels of LDL and increase HDL. It has been found that Inuit Eskimos have high HDL and low LDL because their diets consist of high proportions of fish that have omeaga-3 fatty acids. Walnuts have also been found to help with cholesterol levels and they contain omega-3 fats. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart.
High blood pressure: Blood pressure was seen to be decrease in people suffering from hypertension when they included omega-3 fats in their diets. Clinical studies have been conducted that conclude that taking 3 or more grams of fish oil (which contain omega-3 fats) helps with lowering blood pressure. This is quite a high dose and it is not recommended to take it without first consulting your physician.
Heart disease: Prevention of cardiovascular diseases is possible by making sure to provide your body with enough omega-3 fatty acids. Diets low in saturated fats and rich in mono-saturated and polyunsaturated fats are particularly recommended for those with probable health problems. Polyunsaturated fats can be obtained via foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Overall, omega-3 fatty acids help with lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythms in people already having suffering from a heart attack. Fish oil, a source of omega-3, helps in the treatment of atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries get hardened. This they do by slowing the collection of plaque and blood clots which are responsible for clogging the arteries and making them hard.
Diabetes: Diabetic people tend to have high LDL and low HDL levels in their body. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids should definitely be a part of their diets since it helps with the cholesterol levels. Besides, lowering the bad cholesterol, omega-3 fats also help with decreasing the levels of apoproteins which are markers of diabetes. Diabetic patients, however, need to consult with their physician regarding the source of omega-3 fatty acids good for them because, for instance, while fish oil is fine for others, for diabetic people it tends to slightly raise the fasting blood sugar level.
Rheumatoid arthritis: As discussed above, omega-3 fatty acids are good for reducing inflammation. Therefore, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may benefit from these. RA is an autoimmune disease which leads to inflammation. Fish oil helps relieve the symptoms of RA such as joint pain and morning stiffness. While fish oil may help with treating the symptoms, it does not slow down the progression of the disease.
Osteoporosis: According to certain studies omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to raise the levels of calcium in the body, leading to stronger bones. This is not decided upon yet because some studies had negative results for this effect. Some other studies found that people not including enough of these fatty acids in their diet tend to be at a higher risk of bone loss as compared to those taking in the recommended levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Cognitive decline: Several studies have reached to a conclusion that those who do not include enough omega-3 fatty acids tend to be at a higher risk of getting age related cognitive decline or dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, thus, help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sources of omega-3
While omega-3 fatty acids are very important for our health our bodies do not make them naturally so the only way to make sure we have enough of these is by including them in our diets. Some of the food sources of these fats include:
Flaxseeds: are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. You can include them in your foods, such as muffin, cookie or various types of breads. They do not even lose their benefits or structure due to high temperature so cooking them is perfectly fine. Try to grind them up before using them because these seeds are quite difficult to chew so grinding them helps to digest them more easily. These are cultivated in huge quantities on farms after harvesting their stalks they need to be threshed. Threshing is a lengthy process since it involves three machines; one to thresh the seed, another to break and separate the straw and the third to separate the straw from the fiber. The seeds are then separately processed.
Walnuts: besides tasting great and a perfect food to snack on, walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can eat these nuts raw or chop them up and add them to your favorite dish such as salads, vegetables, fruits or desserts.
Sardines: sardines are another rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and it is recommended to include them, or other fish, in your diet twice a week. Besides, providing with loads of omega-3 fats sardines are also a good source of other nutrients such as vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus.
Salmons: salmons also contain great proportions of omega-3 fatty acids and could be a replacement for sardines.
Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include beef, soybeans, tofu, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Considering the numerous health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids there is no reason for us to not include them in our diets. If you are unaware of the quantity of these fats you need it is suggested that you consult your dietician and ask them for the recommended quantity and the way you can easily take them in. Also, if you have a certain condition, such as diabetes, please consult your physician about it to confirm which omega-3 rich foods you can consume without causing any adverse effects.