What You Should Know
There has been much talk in the health and nutrition communities in the past few years about omega-3 fatty acids. Scientific research continues to support the effectiveness of these essential nutrients in the correction and prevention of numerous diseases, such as cancer, stroke, arthritis, depression, fatigue, and inflammatory conditions.
Scientists believe that omega-3 fatty acids help the body by protecting the cell membranes that surround each cell in the body. Cell membranes allow nutrients into the cell and also are instrumental in the communication that happens between healthy cells. It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids enable the fluidity and flexibility of the cell membranes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats which differ from saturated fats in their composition. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and remain liquid when refrigerated. Saturated fats are solid at both room and refrigerated temperatures. Saturated fats are considered “bad” fats and are connected to higher rates of heart disease and obesity. Polyunsaturated fats, especially those high in omega-3s are “good” fats in moderation and essential for health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in several foods. One of the best foods for these essential nutrients is wild-caught salmon which provides nearly 100% of the recommended amount of omega-3′s. Salmon is considered one of the “superfoods” for its omega-3 and Vitamin E content. Other fish, including halibut and albacore tuna, are also rich sources of omega-3′s. Flaxseed and walnuts are two non-meat sources and the oils pressed from these seeds and nuts are popular ways to boost omega-3 intake.
In recent years, there has been growing concern about the safety of eating fish which has tempered people’s enthusiasm for eating more for omega-3. Testing continues to show increasing levels of methylmercury in fish as waters become more polluted. Most at risk of being contaminated are large fish that have longer lifespans as they have lived in the water and picked up more mercury than smaller fish. Tuna is very susceptible to mercury contamination and the FDA recommends that canned tuna be eaten no more than three times per week for healthy adults and once per week for pregnant women and children. Wild-caught salmon has a much lower average level of mercury and is considered the best fish choice for omega-3.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been scientifically proven to have heart and other health benefits.
- Omega-3′s can assist in weight loss by replacing saturated fats in the diet.
- Some sources of omega-3′s may be contaminated with methylmercury
While there is no doubt left that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health, debate continues with regard to how much is the proper amount and how it should be balanced with other nutrients, such as omega-6 fatty acids. However, adding some omega-3 rich, low fat foods to your diet is a wise part of any health or weight loss plan.