August 2017 Issue

Omega-3 Power

Make sure your diet has ample sources of this important fat.

Are you stumped about getting enough omega-3 fatty acids? You’ve probably heard that they’re good for your heart and brain. Research suggests that they are! But just how much should you eat, and where do you find these important fats?

Finding Omega-3’s

There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids, and experts recommend consuming both.

ALA is found mostly in seeds, walnuts, and plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean and canola oils. The body cannot make ALA, so you must get it in your diet.

EPA and DHA are found in seafood. Your body can convert a very small amount of ALA into EPA and DHA, so eating fish and taking supplements are the only practical ways to boost the EPA and DHA levels in your body.

Grilled Salmon

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Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3s.

Powerful Benefits from EPA and DHA

Lots of research suggests that these two omega-3s play a critical role in healthy living and aging. However, it’s hard to know if the health benefits come directly from these specific fatty acids, the combination of various nutrients in seafood, the avoidance of certain foods when seafood is eaten, or some other factor. Scientists are studying EPA, DHA, and seafood for a variety of potential health benefits.

Heart Health. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice weekly for adequate intake of EPA and DHA, which can decrease your risk of having dangerous, abnormal heartbeats, lower your blood triglyceride levels, and slow the formation of plaque in your blood vessels.

Brain Health. DHA is a critical component of the brain, and some research finds that diets rich in EPA and DHA are associated with better cognitive function in aging.

Eye Health. Some studies show that diets with ample EPA and DHA protect against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss during aging.

Are You Getting Enough?

Most people consume the recommended amount of ALA, which is 1.1 grams (g) daily for women and 1.6 g per day for men. National and international health organizations recommend that we consume about 250-500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA daily. Yet adults in the US consume only about 90 mg/day. Here are three ways to meet your EPA and DHA needs.

Fatty Fish. Some good choices are salmon, trout, tuna, sardines and herring. Aim for a couple servings per week.

Fortified Foods. Supermarket shelves showcase a variety of foods with added omega-3 fatty acids, including milk, yogurt, and orange juice. If you’re not a regular fish eater, hunt out foods fortified with EPA or DHA.

Supplements. Check in with your healthcare provider before starting new supplements. The FDA recommends consuming no more than 3 g daily of combined EPA and DHA, and no more than 2 g should come from supplements. When choosing a fish oil supplement in a sea of options, look for the total amount of EPA and DHA, not the total amount of fish oil, which will be higher. Check to make sure you are taking the correct serving size. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and shun fish, you’ll find some algal options. Algae is where the fish get it too.