Omega-3, which has recently received a fair share of attention, is one of the most important fats that your body needs. Yes, contrary to the belief that fat is bad for you, Omega-3 fats are in fact essential for your existence. But what are these fats that are in fact so important? How do we get them? We are going to look at these things in the subsequent sections.
Omega-3 Fats – A primer
The omega-3 fats belong to a larger class of fats called polyunsaturated fats. Such fats have a special structure i.e. they contain something called as “double bonds” which gives them a unique structure and hence they can break the bonds relatively easily to form other compounds. The most simplest of Omega-3 fats is ALA i.e. alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is a fundamental nutrient for us in a sense that our body cannot synthesize it and hence we need to take it from food we eat. However there are other Omega-3 fats that our body can synthesize i.e. DHA and EPA from ALA itself. Hence for DHA and EPA, we don’t need specific diet but only need to make sure that we have sufficient amount of ALA running in our body so that it can make the other Omega-3 acids as required.
How important are they?
You may want to ask now, just how important are these Omega-3 fats for our body. We look at all the three fatty acids to see what they stand for.
- ALA: Our bodies need ALA, in a large amount, to produce the necessary energy needed. Also, ALA is the primary building block for the DHA and EPA. As much as 85% of the ALA we consume is broken down to extract energy for various needs.
- EPA: Our inflammatory system works by the messaging molecules also known as prostaglandins. These are almost entirely made up of EPA and most of them tend to be anti-inflammatory. Thus, you can readily lower inflammation by having food rich in EPA.
- DHA: If you want your nervous system to function properly, then DHA is your superhero. Our brain in made up of about 20% DHA and it accounts for 10% of the total weight. Major diseases related to our brains have been attributed to the lack of DHA such as Parkinson disease. Thus DHA is extremely important and especially so for kids who need it for their growing brain!
What should we eat for Omega-3?
Let us look at what kind of dietary requirements you need to have so that your body gets sufficient amounts of it.
- If you are a vegan or vegetarian, then you should probably take supplements for Omega-3. However you will get plenty of it from flax seeds and nuts.
- If you eat meat but not seafood, you should prefer meats from animals that feed on grass and legumes such as cows and goats.
- If you consume seafood regularly, then you have the best availability of EPA and DHA already!
Omega-3 as it turns out, is one of the most important fatty acids for our body!