Jane McClenaghan, the nutritionist behind Vital Nutrition talks us through the importance of omega 3 in your diet and the benefits of foods high in omega 3.
What are the benefits of omega-3?
Most of us know that omega 3 fats are good for us, but do you know why?
Perhaps you started adding flaxseed into your diet, or have been recommended to take a fish oil supplement, but are not exactly sure of the health benefits.
These essential fatty acids have a wide range of functions in the human body and can help support your health from your head to your toes. Before we get into that, let me remind you what omega 3 is.
What are omega 3 fats?
Omega 3 fats are long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are essential for human health, meaning that we need to get them through our diet or take as a supplement, as they cannot be made by our bodies.
The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- DHA and EPA are found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. You may also have seen DHA available as a vegan supplement. This one is extracted from algae.
- ALA is found in plant-based sources. Chia seeds and walnuts are good sources, but flaxseed is one of the richest plant-based sources of omega 3 in our diets.
How much do we need?
Ideally we should be aiming to eat oily fish 2–3 times a week and add flaxseed to our diets daily.
A 20g serving of Linwoods Milled Flaxseed added to your food each day will add a little omega 3 boost to your diet.
What do Omega 3 fats do for us?
Omega 3 fats have a whole host of benefits for our health and have been well researched over the years. Here are just some of the functions of omega 3.
- Cardiovascular health. One of the most widely researched benefits has shown that omega 3 fats can help support a healthy cardiovascular system and may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They have been shown to help manage many risk factors associated with heart attacks and stroke, including balancing cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, managing blood pressure and regulating heart rate.
- PMS and period pain. Omega 3 fats are important for supporting hormone balance and studies have shown that they may help reduce symptoms of PMS, including low mood, anxiety and poor concentration. Many nutritionists also recommend them to help support women with menstrual cramps and period pain.
- Skin, hair, and nails. Did you know that they could be an important part of your daily beauty routine? They help hydrate the skin, balance sebum production and moisturise the skin from the inside out. With their anti-inflammatory properties, they can help to manage red, itchy, blotchy and irritated skin and may even have anti-aging effects, as they can help the skin appear plump and hydrated. Omega 3 fats are key ingredients for strong and healthy nails and hair growth, reduce scalp irritation and may help to reduce hair loss.
- Anti-inflammatory effects. They have anti-inflammatory properties. This is important for the management for inflammatory conditions like arthritis, eczema.
- Mind and mood. You brain needs sufficient omega 3 fats to function well. It is thought that a deficiency in omega 3 fats could be contribute to anxiety and depression. Whether this is because these mood disorders are caused by omega 3 deficiency, or that it has specific mood modifying effects is unclear.
- Brain and cognitive function. They have been found to have benefits for learning, memory and cognitive function and to help blood flow to the brain. From ADHD to dementia, they are often recommended to help support healthy brain function.
- Vision and eye health. Many opticians recommend them for healthy eyes. Omega 3 fats can help support those with dry eye syndrome, may reduce the risk of glaucoma and have even been associated with reducing the risk of age-related vision impairment and macular degeneration.