To finish off our Immunity series, we will lastly be talking about omega-3’s! Information about omega-3s that surface the internet can be confusing and we are here to help!
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3s are fatty acids that can be found in a variety of foods. The three main omega-3s are ALA, EPA, and DHA. The three different fatty acids can also be found in a variety of food groups that we will discuss later.
ALA is an essential fatty acid. This means our body can not make it, therefore we must get it from food! Some of the ALA we consume from food sources can be converted into other forms such as EPA into DHA but this only occurs in small quantities.
Overall omega-3s are important for the cells in our body! They give our body energy and have important functions in the heart, lungs, and immune system!
Health Benefits of Omega-3s!
After discussing what are omega-3s and where you can get them, why do we need them? Listed below are a few reasons why our body needs omega-3s!
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improved congitive function
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Lower risk of age-related macular degeneration
- Associated with lower inflammatory markers
Where can I find omega-3s?
Like all other nutrients it is important to get omega-3s from food instead of supplements. Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant oils (flaxseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil)
- Fortified foods (yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages)
It is important to include a variety of food sources in your diet to obtain adequate amounts of omega-3s!
How much do I need?
Most people in the United States get enough ALA from the foods they eat. While we consume enough ALA, many people’s diets fall short of EPA and DHA. There is not an established recommended amount for omega-3 fatty acids.
Average daily recommended amounts for ALA:
|Life Stage||Recommended Amount of ALA|
|Teen boys 14-18 years||1.6g|
|Teen girls 14-18 years||1.1g|
|Pregnant teens and women||1.4g|
While it is important to get as much omega-3 from your diet, if you are struggling with getting enough sources of adequate amounts of omega-3s, consult your health care provider about supplementation.
Omega-3 dietary supplements may include fish oil, cod liver oil, or algal oil. This may result in a “fishy taste” in some brands of supplements. Supplements may come in pill or gummy form. Common omega-3 supplements can range from 500mg all the way up to 3,000mg!
Please consult with a health care provider on which option and doses work best for you. If your doctor has recommended them, you might want to consider prescription strength omega-3’s which have proven benefit and are monitored for safety.
If you buy over the counter omega-3’s be sure you look at the label for the amount of DHA+EPA, which are the active ingredients of the supplement. Just because a supplement is 1,000mg of “omega-3” does not mean that all of it is DHA+EPA. Find the version that gives you the most of the active ingredients.
*Please note that some omega-3 supplements contain fish oil if you have an allergy*
- Omega-3s are essential for the cells in our body!
- Try to get as much omega-3s from your diet first before turning to supplements!
- Always consult a health care provider before turning to supplements
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