The following content is provided by our Chief Dietician Melanie Jatsek, RD/LD.
Did you know that human beings evolved on a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild fish and grass-fed animals? Today, due to our overwhelming reliance on processed food, we are consuming way fewer omega-3 fatty acids, while overdosing on omega-6 fatty acids.
What does this mean for your health?
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fats because your body can’t make them, which means you must get them through food or supplementation. Omega-3 fats—found in seafood and certain plants—have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, while omega-6 fats tend to be pro-inflammatory.
When eaten in the form of nuts, seeds, and eggs, omega-6 fats promote health. Omega-6 fatty acids are also found in cereal grains and refined vegetable oils, common ingredients in processed food. So, if you live on a steady diet of convenience food, you are unknowingly consuming way more omega-6 fats than you should.
Besides loading up on nutrient-dense Superfoods, there’s another powerful step you can take to reclaim control over your health: Eat more seafood!
Seafood is a superior source of various nutrients, such as protein, amino acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The real star player, however, is omega-3 fatty acids.
Forms of omega-3 fatty acids
There are three forms of omega-3 fatty acids in food:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA is found in plant-based foods like walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and leafy veggies. Because they can’t be fully converted into DHA and EPA, omega-3s from plants do not offer the same powerful benefits as those found in marine life. By all means, if you enjoy these plant sources of omega-3s, please continue adding them to your meals because they are in fact Superfoods and will benefit your health in many ways.
EPA & DHA:
The positive effects of seafood have primarily been attributed to EPA and DHA. These omega-3 fats can potentially benefit your health in the following ways:
- Lower triglyceride levels: triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. High levels are a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Raise HDL cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is also known as your “good” cholesterol because it removes other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. Higher levels of HDL are linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Lower risks of cancer.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Prevent blood clots.
- Improve the health of your skin.
- Reduce chronic inflammation.
- A healthy brain: DHA is a component of every cell in your body, including your brain cells! It can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and age-related mental decline.
- Improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.
Although most fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these particular fatty fish contain the highest amount of EPA & DHA:
For positive health benefits, aim for two to three, 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.