Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to a healthy lifestyle and diet. This type of polyunsaturated fat is found in various foods, including fish and nuts, and can also be taken as a supplement. In addition, omega-3s may have numerous health benefits, such as supporting healthy heart health, cognition, and more.
Different types of omega-3
Found in both plant and animal sources, there are three main forms of Omega-3 fatty acids – ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
ALA is found in plant sources such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts, while DHA and EPA are sourced from fish, krill, or squid oil supplements. When choosing between a plant-based or fish oil Omega-3 supplement, it's important to consider your dietary preferences, lifestyle needs, and potential allergies. For example, if you're vegan, then you'll want to select a plant-based supplement.
While dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and flaxseeds contain all three types, some people may have difficulty obtaining enough from their diet, which is where an Omega-3 supplement may come in.
The most common form of Omega-3 supplement is fish oil capsules which provide a concentrated source of EPA and DHA derived from the oil of cold water marine fish such as salmon or mackerel. Fish oil supplements can benefit those who struggle to get adequate amounts from their regular diet due to food allergies or dietary restrictions.
While consuming a plant-based diet can provide some ALA fatty acids, it might be challenging to obtain large amounts through this alone as plants do not offer a significant source of EPA or DHA.
The human body might need Omega-3 for several reasons.
Our bodies need omega-3 for many of the same reasons that it requires other nutrients like vitamins A and D: to help support our health and wellness. You can also find omega-3 in certain types of vitamins formula.
One of the most known aspects of omega-3s is their potential role in inflammation. We experience pain, swelling, and discomfort when our bodies are inflamed. Research shows that omega-3 may potentially help inflammation by blocking the production of inflammatory compounds in our cells in specific populations.*
Omega-3 may play a role in inflammation, and it may also support heart health by impacting cholesterol levels and helping to prevent plaque buildup in our arteries.*
Additionally, Omega-3s have been linked to cognitive function and mental clarity.* Some studies have found that people with higher levels of omega-3s may have an advantage on memory recall and thinking skills than those with lower levels.*
As always, we need to consider the different variables of a specific study before making a general conclusion, as these results might change in other settings.
The best way to ensure you get enough omega-3 is by eating a balanced diet of food sources high in this nutrient, such as fish or nuts.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need an omega-3 supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.