Health Benefits of Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their potential health benefits, some of which are due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Because reducing inflammation levels in the body may help lower the risk of certain chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, omega-3s have been investigated for their possible disease-prevention benefits. Here are some of the highlights of what we know about these potentially powerful nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to help increase good cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides, reducing certain risk factors that may lead to heart disease. Although they have not been shown to directly lower incidences of heart attacks, these anti-inflammatory agents likely play a role in keeping the heart healthy.
Type 2 diabetes often begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells do not respond properly to the action of insulin. While further investigation is needed to determine if they help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, omega-3 fatty acid consumption has been associated with improved insulin sensitivity in some studies.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied for their potential to help address or reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer. Although further research is needed, preliminary findings suggest that with colorectal cancer in particular, omega-3s may help reduce the risk of the disease and may also help increase tolerance for chemotherapy treatment.
People with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriasis may find a bit of relief with an increased intake in omega-3s. Since omega-3s can help reduce inflammation, they may help reduce pain, swelling, and joint stiffness associated with some of these conditions. A 2012 study found that some patients with rheumatoid arthritis were able to decrease the amount of anti-inflammatory medications they were taking for pain (under a doctor’s supervision) after taking omega-3 supplements.
Foods High in Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are only found in specific foods. The best source of omega-3s is fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel. The World Health Organization recommends consuming two servings of fish per week or around 1,000 mgs of omega-3s. Fish have varying quantities of omega-3s, with three ounces of salmon containing around 1,500 mgs, and yellowfin tuna containing 200 mgs.
Ideally, it is best to eat a variety of fish to make sure you are getting an adequate amount weekly.
However, many people are vegetarian, don’t like fish or find it difficult to prepare. A type of omega-3 can also be found in certain plants, such as chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. You can easily add these nuts and seeds into any cereal, smoothie or baked good to help increase your intake of omega-3 fats.