Everywhere you turn, someone is touting the health benefits of fish oil, essential fatty acids or omega-3s. But what are they really? Are they different things? Similar things? And do they live up to the hype?
The short answer is a qualified yes. The longer answer is… if you take the right kind, from the right source, and in the right amount.
But first you have to understand what you are dealing with.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are health-promoting nutrients that your body needs to perform a range of functions, often centered around easing inflammation and supporting healthy levels of C-reactive protein, a common indicator of inflammation in your body.
There are several different types of EFAs, but the two most common are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The two main types of omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There are three main types of omega-6 fatty acids: linoleic acid (LA), arachidonic acid (AA) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA).
But, when it comes to overall health, omega-3s usually get all the attention… and for good reason. Omega-3 fats have been shown to protect your heart, brain and joints.
Omegas and Health
Science shows that the DHA and EPA found in essential fatty acids help women maintain their health throughout pregnancy. And they help the unborn baby’s brain, nervous system and vision develop properly.
Omega-3s can also help promote brain function in adults. This may be due, in part, to the fact that it is found throughout the fatty tissue in your brain.
But where omega-3s really stand out is in heart health. Increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, especially those from fish and fish oil, can reduce several cardiovascular risk factors by promoting normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Omega-3s also help keep blood pressure levels in the normal range. In addition, omega-3s support arterial health by promoting proper blood vessel dilation, which, in turn, supports circulation and blood flow throughout the body.
In one study, called the DART trial, researchers found that long-term consumption of omega-3 fatty acids cut the risk of cardiovascular events and death. More specifically, DART found that men who ate fatty fish twice a week experienced a 29 percent decrease in mortality over a two-year period.
Omega-3s also promote healthy joints. They have been shown to decrease morning stiffness, reduce everyday joint tenderness, and even support normal lubrication of your joints. This is due to EFA’s ability to ease inflammation and support a normal inflammation response in the body.
Finally, omega-3s don’t just promote internal health. They can keep you looking fresh and youthful as well by supporting hair growth and healthy skin.
In short, omega-3s do your body a whole lot of good both inside and out!
Consider the Source
One of the richest sources of omega-3s is cold-water fish. The colder the water a fish lives in, the more omega-3 its body needs to keep it warm.
Hands down, the best choice is fresh salmon. Other good options include mackerel, scrod, cod, halibut, sardines, sablefish, shad and oysters.
Like everything in nature, there can be a dark side. And, when it comes to omega-3s, that usually has to do with human involvement, specifically mercury contamination and toxins. To avoid mercury contamination, avoid swordfish, marlin and shark. You may even want to limit your tuna consumption to no more than once every other week.
To limit your exposure to pesticides and insecticide runoff, try to avoid all farm-raised and freshwater fish. Due to contamination of our lakes and streams, as well as the common fish farm practices, you are better off sticking with cold-water, ocean-based fish options.
Boost the Benefits
Eating fish is a great way to get your EFAs, but to ensure you are getting the omega-3s your body clearly needs for overall great health, you may want to take a daily fish oil supplement as well. Just remember that every product is only as good as the ingredients it contains. And the same goes for fish oil supplements.
Again, you’ll want to follow the same guidelines for your supplement as you would for the actual fish. Look for a product that contains oil from cold-water fish, ideally salmon.
It should be free of mercury and other toxins. Any reputable manufacturer should provide some type of assurance of purity and potency. They should also indicate that they’ve been tested for heavy metals and are mercury-free.
Finally, the product should contain at least 800 mg of actual omega-3s. It should also have 250–300 mg of DHA and 400–450 mg of EPA.
This combination of a high-quality fish oil supplement, paired with frequent consumption of cold-water fish, will give you the omega-3s you need to keep you body healthy and beautiful for years to come.
You can either shop around to find an omega-3 product that meets all of these specifications or, for your convenience, you can simply click here.