Our bodies require a cocktail of nutrients, vitamins, hormones, and fatty acids to ensure maximum health. We know that getting our 5 fruit and veg a day is crucial to good health, but we need more than that. Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential to good health. Comprised of three main components, these fatty acids are found in fish oil and have a plethora of health benefits for our bodies. In fact, omega 3 fatty acids nourish every part of our bodies, from the brain to the heart to the skin.
Where can you find omega 3 fatty acids? What health benefits can fish oil bring? What if you don't like seafood? Let's find out.
Where to Get Omega 3 Fish Oil
Like most nutrients and vitamins, you can find omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, namely in fatty fish. Certain fish and seafood options are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Here are a few you could try:
- Salmon Mackeral
However, be careful of your fish intake. Certain types of fish may contain levels of mercury, especially fatty fish like salmon. In small amounts, this isn't a problem, but eating fish excessively can cause problems. It's recommended to have around two servings of fish or seafood a week.
Supplements vs Natural
If you're not able to get a regular serving of fish, or you don't like or can't eat seafood, supplements could be the way forward. You still need to take omega 3 into your body.
Of course, it's always best to get your nutrients and vitamins naturally, if you can. However, this isn't always possible. Fish oil supplements or cod liver oil capsules are an easy addition to your daily routine and keep you strong and healthy.
Usually, omega fatty acid supplements come as a trio. This means that you'll get all three crucial components of omega 3 in one capsule or pill.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are well-known for keeping our hearts and brains healthy. However, they also have many other health benefits. In fact, omega 3 can keep just about every area of our body healthy, as well as giving an overall boost to our immune system. If you haven't added fish to your diet just yet, you will after you've read through this list!
1. Boosts Mood
Omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements do more than just give us a little mood boost. There's evidence that getting plenty of omega 3 in your diet can actually work to combat the effects of depression and anxiety. In fact, one type of omega 3 fatty acid is considered as effective as an antidepressant drug, based on ongoing research.
Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are extremely common disorders, with millions of people suffering worldwide. While it's likely not possible to combat these diseases with a healthy diet, adding fatty fish, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, can go a long way to helping boost your mood and fight this terrible condition.
Of course, omega 3 isn't a miracle drug. You can't eat two portions of fish and expect to immediately see results. Building up your health and taking in the right nutrients takes time, and you may have to wait to feel the benefits.
Be sure not to rule out other health treatments. For example, if your doctor prescribes your anti-anxiety or antidepressants, you shouldn't abandon them in favor of eating more fish. The best thing to do is to use both resources side by side. Your health and happiness is paramount.
2. Promotes Brain Health
Fish oil, especially oil that's rich in omega 3 fatty acids, is crucial for good brain health and development in infants.
Taking plenty of omega 3 during pregnancy is very important since it will have a direct effect on a child's development. Higher intelligence, better communication skills, fewer behavioral problems, and fewer developmental delays are all linked to a healthy level of omega 3 fatty acids in children, according to extensive research.
Omega 3s also help to keep our brains sharp as adults, too.
3. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease or Cardiovascular Disease
Like many other healthy foods, fish oil supplements and omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce the risk of heart disease, or cardiovascular disease. Since heart attacks and strokes are a common cause of death today, this means that adding fatty fish to your diet is something you should consider.
However, omega 3s do not necessarily reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Evidence suggests that they successfully reduce inflammation and keep your heart healthy, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. Since heart disease is often the root cause of strokes and heart attacks, this can indirectly reduce your risk of poor heart health.
Of course, you need to do more than just take in omega 3s! Keeping our hearts healthy and avoiding heart disease requires a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and a balanced lifestyle. Eating fatty fish or taking in omega 3s is just a part of that lifestyle.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Omega 3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties. While inflammation is a natural response by the body to fight off infections, prolonged inflammation can cause serious health issues. Inflammation is a component in developing heart disease and cancer. Sometimes, the body can become inflamed without any legitimate cause.
The danger of inflammation can be eased by eating foods that have noted anti-inflammatory properties. Generally, this includes most healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables, and, of course, oily fish! It's worth noting that omega 3 supplements may not have the same benefits as oily fish. If you want the benefits, you may have to make changes to your diet.
5. Boosts Immune System
Regardless of how healthy we feel, our immune system can also do with an extra boost. Omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements help to keep our immune system strong and healthy. Getting plenty of omega 3s in our developmental stages of childhood are linked to lower risks of autoimmune diseases in later life.
Diseases such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis can also be treated with omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements. While taking supplements or tweaking your diet may not make these problems go away, research suggests it can help to ease the symptoms.
6. Helps to Resist Alzheimer's and Age-Related Mental Decline
It's possible that omega 3s and fish oil supplements can help to combat age-related mental declines and Alzheimers. As we age, our minds become less crisp and supple. To an extent, this is unavoidable. However, there is growing evidence that the fatty acids found in fish oil may help our minds to stay sharp for longer. It may be worth considering omega 3 supplements at the onset of Alzheimer's disease, with the aim of easing the symptoms.
7. Decreases Risk of Cancer
Since inflammation is a key component in developing cancerous cells, fish oil is extremely helpful. While studies are ongoing, there is evidence to indicate that people who take in more omega 3 fish oils have a reduced risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
While the results of some studies are inconclusive, one thing is clear: adding fish oil and eating fatty fish is a good idea.
8. Improves Joint and Bone Health
Omega 3 and fish oil supplements can give bone health a good boost. Skeletal disorders like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause significant pain and mobility issues. While taking fish oil won't completely get rid of the problem, evidence suggests that it may help to ease the symptoms.
In fact, people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may report that their pain has eased a little after taking a course of omega 3 fish oil. They may also notice increased grip strength and even more flexibility.
Of course, to reap these positives, you should make fish oil part of your diet. Whether you're taking dietary supplements or simply eating more fish, it takes time to fully absorb the nutrients into your body.
9. Eases Menstrual Pain
Inflammation is often the root cause of menstrual pain. This pain can range from mild to severe, and can severely impact your quality of life.
Research shows that omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil can help to ease this pain. This is due to the anti-inflammatory qualities of fish oil. In fact, according to scientific evidence, a regular diet that includes fish oil or fish oil supplements may give more effective pain relief than ibuprofen, which also works as an anti-inflammatory aid.
Adding fatty fish to your diet can help your menstrual pain become milder over time.
10. Good for Healthy Skin
As we age, our skin becomes less supple. This is because of a lack of collagen in the skin membrane. Omega 3 supplements and fish oil can help keep our skin healthier and stronger for longer. Here are just a few benefits of regular omega 3s on our skin:
- Keeps skin hydrated
- Reduces premature skin aging
- Protects skin from sun damage
- Lower risk of acne (which can cause long-term damage to the skin. Acne can be due to a poor diet, hygiene habits, or hormone imbalances)
- Prevents the little red bumps we often see on our upper arms (known as hyperkeratinization)
Regularly taking fish oil or omega 3 supplements, or better yet, adding seafood to our diet, can have a noticeable effect on our skin health.
11. Improves Sleep Quality
Poor sleep impacts every area of our health. Not getting enough sleep - or poor quality sleep - has been linked to issues such as diabetes, depression, and obesity. Poor sleep also affects our alertness and enjoyment of life. As many of us know, a bad nights' sleep leaves us feeling grumpy, tired, and irritated the next day!
However, low levels of omega 3s have been linked to poor sleep in both children and adults. Difficulty getting to sleep or fitful sleep can rack up a "sleep debt", and has a noticeable impact on our health and happiness.
Adding fish oil and omega 3s to our diet, whether via dietary supplements or in the form of fatty fish and seafood, is essential to healthy sleep quality. In fact, not getting sufficient omega 3 is linked to lower levels of melatonin. This is the hormone that helps us to fall asleep.
12. Promotes Good Eye Health
Last but certainly not least, omega 3 fatty acids are good for eye health. One of the three components of omega 3s is essential for a healthy retina. In fact, higher levels of omega 3 are linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of eyesight problems and future blindness.
What to Watch Out For
Omega 3 fatty acids can have a tremendous impact on our health. They can sharpen up our eyesight, boost our immune system, prevent heart disease and cancers like prostate cancer, as well as nourishing our skin and reducing pain of all kinds.
However, omega 3 is a supplement. This means that however you're taking omega 3, whether in the form of fatty fish or supplement capsules, it needs to be taken in along with a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle. While taking fish oil supplements or high doses of omega 3 fatty acid can help to alleviate the symptoms of many conditions, the problems themselves often need to be treated at the root cause.
Additionally, some kinds of seafood may contain trace amounts of mercury. In moderation, this is fine. It's recommended that you eat at least two portions of fatty fish a week. However, eating more than this could expose you to a higher level of mercury. If you're not sure whether or not your fish contains mercury, do a little research before you add it to your diet.
Of course, if you have an allergy to seafood of any kind, dietary supplements are definitely the way to go.
If you're concerned about any health issues or possible side effects or allergic reactions, consult your doctor for medical advice.
However, the beneficial effects of eating fish every week vastly outweigh the risks. Grab yourself a delicious fillet of salmon, and get cooking!