Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Good for Inflammation, Brain & Heart Health
Omega-3's get lots of attention these days due to constant scientific studies being released and 'supplement' brands espousing them as a "miracle" cure all.
There is much truth to these claims, but it's important to understand exactly what Omega-3's are, the three distinct types, how they work and the best sources for your body.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Made up of chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that your body needs and uses for a variety of important natural functions and processes.
They form part of the membranes of cells, as well as provide vital fuel for your body to use as energy.
The word ‘essential’ means that your body cannot make it on it's own, so you need to get it from foods in your diet.
There are THREE main types:
1) Alpha-linolec Acid (ALA) - The most common dietary omega-3 originating mainly from plant sources which we recommend most;
2) Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) - Sometimes called ‘marine omega-3s’ these are found in seafood, including fatty fish and algae;
3) Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) - Also from the same sources as EPA, and can also sometimes be found in grass-fed animal products.
With most scientific studies and consumer attention focusing on the marine-driven EPA and DHA fatty acids, especially in products like ‘fish oil’ and other ‘supplements’, it’s important to keep in mind that plant-sourced ALA is actually the parent molecule from which your body will produce EPA and DHA.
The omega-3s derived from dead fish are not optimal as plant primary nutrition is what our body's cells recognise.
Additionally, many marine sources can also be highly tainted with toxins, including heavy metals such as mercury. I would definitely avoid these sources!
Symptoms of Deficiency
Some common signs of not getting enough Omega-3s include:
- Poor Circulation
- Tenderness or fluids around the joints
- Heart problems
- Mental Fog
- Dark Circled or Puffy Eyes
- Skin Rashes (Hives, Eczema or Psoriasis
- Dry Skin
- Constant Fatigue
- Mood Swings.
What are the health benefits?
Omega-3 fats have been the subject of many studies by researchers and have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, including:
Today's science confirms what they've known for thousands of years.
The 'good' oils known as Omega 3's that are derived from various plant sources, are powerful for reducing system-wide inflammation throughout the body - everything from sore joints to skin problems, hire blood pressure and obesity.
This is thanks to their ability in inhibiting inflammatory molecules like "eicosanoids" and "cytokines".
With inflammation being a precursor and contributor to most dis-ease, increasing the amount of Omega-3s into your diet is one way to help address this issue, as well as improve your overall health.
Learn more in What Is Inflammation & How To Reduce It In Your Body
These essential fats play a role in also preventing 'bad' cholesterol from clogging the arteries.
Boosting Brain Health
Omega-3 fatty acids increase blood supply to the brain.
The flesh of the nut acts as pure precursor that the brain converts to neurotransmitters for cognitive enhancement.
Omega-3's are vital for brain cells to produce the billions of connections that enable the brain to function so by increasing consumption it’s been shown that this can lead to improved mood, cognitive abilities and peak performance.
The ancients knew that pecans and walnuts are brain food thanks to their signatures or sign-of-nature. If you look at the walnut, it is a mirror image structure of the human brain.
The husk is the skin; the hard shell, the cranial cap; the meat, the brain. You see the convoluted, gyritic folds just like the surface neocortex of the brain on the surface of the nut; you can see the left and right hemispheres are seen; the upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums; and a membrane that connects the entire nut the corpus colossum.
It really is fascinating when you look at wholefoods like this through a different set of eyes.
Studies today confirm that Walnuts are literally pure brain food. The omega 3 fatty acids in the walnut carry the flesh of the nut as a precursor into the brain chemistry, and the brain then converts it into over three dozen known neurotransmitters for cognitive or memory enhancement.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids can be beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
They belong to the group of fats known as ‘polyunsaturated’ fats that can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Researchers theorise that omega-3 fatty acids foster good circulation due in part to their alpha-linolenic acid content.
The presence of omega-3 fatty acids makes blood platelets less likely to clump together and form clots that lead to heart attacks. They also improve the ratio of good HDL to bad LDL cholesterol.
Other ways they can benefit the heart include their ability to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Prevent erratic heart rhythms
- Make blood less likely to clot inside arteries (causes of most heart attacks)
Other Health Benefits
It’s widely known that Omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial for the following ailments and dis-eases:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Eye health
- Reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Cancer prevention
- Bone & joint health
- Skin health & anti-ageing properties
- Stroke prevention
- Headaches & Migraines
Best Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
ALA the precursor to the other two types can be found in quite high quantities in the following groups of whole foods:
Nuts and seeds include:
- Sesame Seeds
Plant oils include:
- Flax Seed Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Other good sources:
- Dark leafy green vegetables & seaweed
- Natto (fermented soybeans)
Even though there are big advertising budgets pushing people to take Omega 3 supplements - mainly fish oil - avoid them like the plague.
Simply eat plenty of plant oils in the forms of Nuts, Avocados, Olive Oil and Leafy Greens. And if you really want to 'supplement' Omega 3, choose a liquid oil variety like Flax or Udos and have a teaspoon or two of that each day as well.
Tolman Self Care.