Omega-3s And Heart Health

Omega-3s And Heart Health

WHAT ARE OMEGA-3s?

You may be familiar with the term omega-3 fats from hearing about how eating fish is good for you, but why are these lipids good for you, and what are they in the first place?

Many people aren’t aware that this type of fat is actually an important component of all cell membranes—including those that make up the human body. The human immune system, endocrine system, and organs like your eyes and lungs all rely on omega-3 fats to work properly.

Even though your body does naturally contain and produce omega-3 fats within each of its trillions of cells, omega-3 fats are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet as well. This is because there are three types of omega-3 fats, all of which benefit the body and its systems. However, though contained in each cell, omega-3s are not naturally

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is considered an essential fatty acid—one that is important to intake from your diet, since the human body cannot adequately produce it. Most ALA fats can be found from plant-based products, especially flaxseed, which has a high density of ALA fatty acid with about 2,300 mg of omega-3 content per tablespoon.

A diet rich in the second type of omega-3, eicosapentaeonic adic (EPA), is believed to help to reduce inflammation in the body, lowering risk of several common diseases and ailments. Along with the third type of omega-3, docoahexaenoic adid (DHA), EPA may also lower the risk and effects of depression, and hot flashes for women experiencing menopause. Unlike APA, EPA and DHA are often found in fish and seafood, and in the oils derived from them.

When these three types of omega-3s work together, they not only benefit the human body’s immune system, but work together to benefit the heart and cardiovascular system as well.

 

THE BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3S FOR HEART HEALTH

When consumed as part of a balanced, wholesome diet and paired with regular exercise, the three types of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to impact overall health, but have been linked to particular success with improving cardiovascular and heart health. There are multiple benefits that ALA, EPA, and DHA, when consumed in tandem, can have on the cardiovascular system at large.

For example, a reduction in body inflammation due to EPA consumption can help to alleviate restricted blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more evenly and with less stress on veins and arteries. Ensuring you’re consuming enough DHA can also assist with lowering blood pressure. DHA and EPA can also reduce blood clotting, and decrease stroke risk, too.

Studies have shown that omega-3s can have multiple short and long-term benefits for heart health. This is because omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which help to develop and strengthen bodily tissues, such as brain matter and blood vessels.

These benefits include an impactful lowering of triglycerides, a type of fat found in blood, which can also assist in reducing cholesterol buildup in arteries and the bloodstream. With a lower cholesterol build up, the risk of heart attacks and heart failure can decrease dramatically, especially for those who consume omega-3 rich foods, like fish, on a regular basis.

An intake of ALA can actually lower the overall risk of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD), which is caused by atherosclerosis, a slow, gradual buildup of plaque in the arteries. Experts believe that ALA can decrease risk of CHD by lowering the risk of abnormal heartbeats and rhythms that can trigger cardiac arrest, lowering triglyceride levels in the cardiovascular system, and, most importantly, reducing the plaque growth rate to avoid rapid clogging of arteries and blood vessels.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST OMEGA-3 PRODUCT

Here are some considerations to make when looking to supplement your diet with omega-3 rich products:

  • What type of omega-3 is in the product? Does the product or food item contain all three types of fatty acids? If not, consider pairing it with another product or supplement that will ensure you consume all three.
  • How much omega-3 is in the product? Is it highly concentrated, and is it a sustainable resource for you and your diet needs?
  • Is it fresh? If an omega-3 supplement or food product has gone bad, it can be less potent and even harm your health if you consume it.

One of the most important considerations when choosing your omega-3 source is whether you prefer an animal or plant-based origin.

So what options are there?

Fresh fish, such as salmon, is the premier source of omega-3 fats. A 100-gram serving of salmon can have up to 2.8 grams of omega-3 fats, making it one of the most omega-3 dense foods out there. Many other types of seafood, including oysters, sardines, and anchovies, also have high omega-3 content. In fact, some studies suggest that adding one of those options to your diet at least two times per week is an ideal way to ensure you’re consuming enough omega-3s, and having a positive impact on your heart’s health in the process.

However, it should also be noted that fish can contain traces of mercury, which may not be ideal for those who have certain medical conditions, or women who are pregnant or nursing. Omega-3s can also be found grass fed butter or meat, although not in as high of content.

But there are other options as well, and many are vegan and/or vegetarian compliant. While walnut and soybeans provide a relatively small amount of omega-3s, the best plant-based, highly dense sources of these essential fatty acids are chia seeds and flaxseed.

Flaxseed is actually one of the most omega-3 dense foods, containing about 2,300 mg of omega-3s within just a tablespoon of seeds, or 7,100 mg of omega-3s within a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. One strong reason to consider flax as a source for omega-3s is its versatility. Flax can be ground into meal and used as a substitute for flour or eggs, or blended into smoothies, soups, or other mixed foods, making it an easy source to incorporate into your diet.

While natural sources are an excellent way to boost your omega-3 intake, there are also omega-3 products and supplements you can add into your regimen to boost your ALA, EPA, and DHA consumption.

Often, omega-3 supplements are prescribed by a doctor under certain conditions, as it is recommended that you opt for natural sources, such as those listed above. Multiple supplements are available sans-prescription, though.

If consuming fresh fish or seafood is not an option, one alternative is to ingest fish-derived oil, the most popular option being salmon oil capsules. Fish oil capsules are a great, non-prescription supplement option if you would like to amplify your omega-3 intake without changing your diet patterns, too.

There are two types of fish oil capsules available: natural, and processed. Natural fish oil capsules are derived from the tissue of oily fish, mostly in the form of triglycerides, and are the closest thing you can get to ingesting real fish. Two types of omega-3s are present, EPA and DHA, making this a well-rounded and balanced option.

One of the main differences between natural and processed fish oil capsules is the concentration of omega-3s. While natural, unprocessed oils often contain up to 30% omega-3s, processed oils can contain up to 90%. While these percentages may lead you to automatically choose the processed variety, an important factor to consider is the body’s way of digesting and absorbing these two varieties. The human body is much more adept to process natural capsules as opposed to processed capsules, because processed capsules often contain the oil in an ethyl ester form, which is more difficult for the body to digest.

In addition to fish oil, other oils such as krill oil, algal oil, and green-lipped mussel oil can provide omega-3s as well.

As you can see, there are multiple options to provide this heart-healthy nutrient. But when it comes down to it, is there really a need to take these supplements?

If you have fish or other omega-3 rich seafood as routine staples in your diet, there’s not necessarily a need to supplement it. But a dose of omega-3s, with all of their health benefits, won’t hurt, either.

Categories: Health Topics

About Author

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*