Want a healthy heart, brain, eyes, and joints? Omega-3s can get you there! When it comes to fats, omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most well-researched nutrients. Due to their anti-inflammatory powers, they are powerful in preventing and treating health issues.
1. Omega-3s Increase Heart Health
Eating the recommended two to three servings of fatty fish per week might just be your ticket to a healthy heart. Studies indicate that eating fish or taking fish oil supplements, both high in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, can reduce elevated triglycerides associated with cardiovascular disease (1). Omega-3s may also reduce plaque that builds up in arteries, and decrease the risk of heart attacks (2, 3).
2. Omega-3s Boost Your Mood
Think that mental health has no relationship to nutrition? Think again. Researchers have found low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in individuals with depressive symptoms, as well as a connection between low fish consumption and major depression (4, 5). Preliminary studies on the use of omega-3 fatty acids to treat depression suggest promising results. In one experiment, patients with depression who received omega-3 supplementation reported significantly less symptoms after eight weeks, compared to patients who took placebos (6).
3. Omega-3s Improve Eye Health
Swap those carrots for salmon! Omega-3s can prevent and treat eye issues. High intake of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to a decreased occurrence of dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration (7, 8). A randomized controlled trial for omega-3 supplementation in the treatment of dry eyes reported a significant improvement in patients who received supplements compared to those who got placebos (9).
4. Omega-3s Help with Arthritis
Tired of those aches and pains? Omega-3s can help. These powerful fatty acids have been proven to decrease the symptoms of certain inflammatory, autoimmune diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis (10). Omega-3s may even aid in decreasing muscle soreness after exercise (11).
Omega-3s are crucial for optimal health, but most Americans do not eat enough of these fatty acids. Rich sources of omega-3s include fatty fish and fish oils, since they contain the EPA and DHA forms that have powerful effects. The form of omega-3 found in plant foods, ALA, is not easily converted to EPA and DHA. So while walnuts and flax seeds are fantastic sources of other nutrients with their own advantages for the body, they may not be the best way to get some of the above benefits.
Eating fish two to three times a week, or taking fish oil supplements under the supervision of your doctor, is a great way to consume omega-3s. It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of omega-6s, another polyunsaturated fatty acid, that you eat can influence how omega-3s work in your body. Read about our need for a proper omega-6/omega-3 balance.