O ME GA’D!

Omega-rich salmon, chia seeds, avocado, walnuts, egg yolks, and walnuts.

Omega-rich salmon, chia seeds, avocado, walnuts, egg yolks, and walnuts.

The focus on Omega 3 fatty acid food sources and supplementation has been gaining a lot of attention for quite some time now and you have definitely heard a lot about its beneficial effects to your health and well being.

Let’s look deeper into this magical elixir found in many of our food ingredients to understand how it really works!

 Fats can be broken down into 3 types: Unsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, and trans fatty acids.

The good guys are the unsaturated, which are divided into Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) bringing to our food plates the famous Omega 3, 6, 9.

Don’t get confused with the numbering; it just signifies its chemical structure.

Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids belong to the Poly unsaturated fatty acid family. They are known to be Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) as our body does not manufacture them on its own, so we need to get them from food.

Omega 3 fatty are classified into two different groups due to their difference in properties:

ü  Long chain fatty acids include Eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic acid (DHA). They are considered to be most beneficial and are found in fish, primarily in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel.

ü   Short chain fatty acids such as Alpha Linolenic Acid

(ALA) are found in plants, for example Canola oil, Flax seeds and Chia seeds. N.B: Our body only partially converts ALA to the more useful form of EPA and DHA.

The below table will provide a few examples on good sources of Omega 3 (1):

Research shows strong evidence on Omega 3’s health benefits including a reduction in overall mortality. This is largely due to protection against coronary heart disease, reduced risk of stroke, depression, suppressing cancer cells, relief from arthritis, protecting skin damage, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduces mental decline with aging. Current research also suggests that a deficit in Omega 3 fatty acids could negatively impact brain development in a fetus.

The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (Serving size: 3.5 ounces, ~90g cooked fish) a week. However, pregnant women should be aware of the type of fish being consumed because some species of fish (especially large fish such as shark and tuna) are high in mercury, a metal that can negatively impact brain development in young children and developing fetuses (2).

Source: American Heart Association

Along with Omega 3 fatty acids, Omega 6 fatty acids- Linoleic Acid (LA), are PUFAs that play a crucial role in healthy body functions. The American Heart Association recommends that people get at least 5 to 10% of calories from Omega 6 along with the recommended amount of Omega 3 to maintain a healthy ratio. Yet today’s modern diet allows people to obtain enough (if not more) of these Omega 6 oils from foods such as nuts, cooking oils, and salad dressings.

After being such a hot topic in the health world, ask almost anyone today and they’ll tell you that omega 3 is important for a healthy diet. But there are high chances of them not knowing that it is even more important to have a lower ratio of Omega 6/Omega 3 fatty acids to reduce risks of the globally rising threat of chronic diseases. This is due to each of them leading to the production of different chemical substances with opposing effects in the body (Omega 6 promotes inflammation while Omega 3 reduces inflammation). This imbalance needs to be rectified by either consuming less Omega 6, or more much more Omega 3.

Many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is a great option to maintain a healthier balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to protect us from heart diseases. It includes less meat (which is high in Omega and emphasizes foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids in its cuisine, including whole grains, fresh produce, fish, olive oil, and garlic (Source: University of Maryland School of Medicine).

  1. Gebauer, S. K., T. L. Psota, W. S. Harris, and P. M. Kris-Etherton. 2006. n-3 fatty acid dietary recommendations and food sources to achieve essentiality and cardiovascular benefits. Am J Clin Nutr 83:1526S–1535S.

2. McNamara, R. K., and S. E. Carlson. 2006. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function: Potential

implications for the pathogenesis and prevention of psychopathology. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 75:329–

49.

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Categories: Nutri-Nut, O ME GA'D!

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  1. Reaping the Benefits of Chia Seeds | Beyond Zucchini - June 9, 2014

    […] healthy brain functioning (for more on the benefits of Omega 3′s, check out our section, Omega’d). Containing a potent antioxidant as well, chia seeds help in fighting diseases naturally. This […]

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