Omega 3 fatty acid has gotten plenty of press lately. Television commercials pitch the value of their capsules. These ads tell us that our bodies need these supplements to achieve greater health. The number of choices in this industry niche are certainly growing every day. Industry follows the money.
In a very important respect, the ads are correct. It is a vital part of our daily diet. Since our own bodies do not make these critical acids on their own, we need to be the provider. In this page, I'll offer some suggestions to do this in an efficient, effective, economical manner.
There is no debate anymore about the value of omega 3. It promotes much better heart and brain health. This sounds like a very general statement, I realize. I'll go into several specific benefits of this important acid here, without overloading you.
In our continuing battle to defeat heart disease, eliminating trans fat is one of our main objectives. But there are some fats that are actually very important and are manufactured within in our bodies. Omega 3 falls into the category of essential for good health, but is not produced within our bodies. So we need to provide it.
Another fatty acid is omega 6. It is important to maintain a sort of balance between the two essential acids. This presents another problem with western diets. Omega 6 is found in many of the red meats we consume every day. So there is no shortage of omega 6 intake.
The problem lies in the fact that omega 6 tends to increase the level of inflammation. We know that this can lead to clogged arteries and higher blood pressure. It also can increase cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is important, but like fat, there is good and bad here too.
Omega 3 helps to reduce inflammation levels, thereby lowering blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol levels. We need to improve the ratio between omega 3 fatty acid and that of omega 6.
There are a couple different types of omega 3 fatty acids. The fish oil versions, (DHA and EPA), are generally considered to be more effective. They seem to provide more value from equal quantities. Plant based foods also provide a type of omega 3 fatty acid, known as (ALA). Our bodies can convert this type into useful nutrients.
Here is a list of foods that provide the omega 3 fatty acid we need to improve our overall health. There are more for sure, but these two groups will give you a good starting point.
Foods high in DHA and EPA:
Cold water fish such as.....
Salmon, (Wild grown have much more omega 3 than farm grown.)
Tuna (Use the cans packed with water rather than oil.)
Plant based foods high in ALA:
I'm finding more and more experts citing the value of flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Dr. Chauncey Crandall highly recommends this choice in his newest book, "The Simple Heart Cure." But there are many more in the nutrition field who are coming out in favor of this source of omega 3 fatty acid. It is so functional. You can cook with it, or just grind it up and add it to many recipes.
Most American diets are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids. We don't eat enough nuts and seeds. Walnuts and flaxseeds in place of potato chips and processed cheese will go a long way toward better health.
We eat way too much meat and dairy products from animals that were not raised on plants containing omega 3. This holds true for chickens as well. Just like humans, animals are what they eat.
We don't eat anywhere near enough cold water fish. Salmon, especially wild rather than farm grown, are loaded with this natural cardiac strengthener. Our goal should be to get up to a point where we eat these omega 3 rich fish at least twice per week as is suggested by the American Heart Association.
In his book, Dr Crandall lays out a great plan for what to eat to obtain better health. He is a proponent of the idea of the Mediterranean diet as well. Following the food choices in the Mediterranean diet pyramid, you will be able to provide all the essential omega 3 fatty acid your body will require.
I would add one caveat to that statement about the pyramid. At the base you will find whole grains. We are learning more about the health effects of grain. That would include whole wheat. It may very well be more dangerous than we've been led to believe. I would suggest going easy on the grain intake.
I'm not sure about the pros and cons of omega 3 capsules. Vitamin effectiveness might not be standard across the industry. I am sure that you can accomplish the same thing by just following the suggestions on that Mediterranean diet pyramid, ( don't forget that paragraph above regarding grains), or by adhering to the plan in "The Simple Heart Cure." In that book, Dr. Crandall discusses some concerns that have come up about some of the supplement options available.
He provides some good information to help you pick the correct supplement if you do go that way. But natural is always better.
I've read where there is evidence of possibly raised risks of prostate cancer from some omega 3 supplement options. I don't know how far this has been researched.
My experience has been that some nutritional supplements can help you. It is also possible to go broke attempting to cover all your bases with supplements. Improving your diet and getting quality exercise will do the same thing.
We know that overall cardiac health is affected by many factors that unfortunately we bring upon ourselves too often. Inflammation has taken a new place in the spotlight as a cause of many cardiac conditions that often end up in heart attacks or strokes. These omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce this very dangerous condition.
They reduce the level of triglycerides, which are another type of fat found in our blood stream. Triglycerides are a cause of higher blood pressure. A healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids can help raise the "good" cholesterol, (HDL), and lower the bad kind,(LDL).
We are getting more and more evidence that these omega 3 fatty acids might be valuable in combating dementia related conditions. There will still need to be more work done in this area, but there are some promising results. These ravaging diseases have far reaching effects on entire families.
A study came out regarding omega 3, found in fish oil. A decent number of older women were tested for overall brain size and then researchers tested the same group again about a decade later. This time they measured the amount of omega 3 fatty acid. Those ladies with higher levels of omega 3 also had higher brain volumes.
The impact of such a discovery, if it holds true would be enormous for people suffering from dementia related conditions, including Alzheimer's disease.
So we're looking at lowering blood pressure. We hoping to get off statins and lower cholesterol levels. We want to cut down on inflammation levels. In the process we're working to reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke. This path will also cut down on related cardiac ailments such as diabetes and kidney disease.
And here in front of us is another tool in our arsenal of self defense. So how do we take the most advantage of it? We incorporate it into our daily lives. We could buy bottles of those little capsules. Or we could just re-direct dollars already pegged for our food budget.
We can provide the omega 3 fatty acids required by our body by simply changing what we eat.
How would it feel to gain back some lost energy? Is it worth it to you? Would an energized retirement be worth switching from double cheeseburgers to fresh salmon twice per week? Would an extra decade to make a difference in the world around you be worth more omega 3 fatty acid rich vegetables in place of artery clogging rich cupcakes?
You get to decide. Here is a link with about 5 dozen possible health benefits of omega 3. There is plenty of information on this page.