Foods that were once villainized for high-fat content are now sought out intensely thanks to their Omega-3 content. This seemingly wondrous substance is rumored to help you achieve a flat belly, improve brain function, and lower bad cholesterol levels. How much of this is true?
Beyond that, where can you get Omega-3 fatty acids? In this article, we will give you the information you need to have a better understanding of what Omega-3 fatty acids are and how they promote health, as well as where you can find them beyond the well-known almonds and salmon options.
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that our bodies need to function and stay healthy. Omega-3 fats make up cell membranes, provide raw materials for hormone production (particularly those that regulate artery health and inflammation), and they bind to receptors that regulate genetic function.
What’s important to note is that under normal circumstances, our bodies can’t make Omega-3s, like they can other fats. For this reason, we need to get all of the Omega-3s we need through the food we eat.
There are many different types of Omega-3 fats, but there are 3 types that have been found to be especially beneficial for our health.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): EPA assists with blood flow and prevents blood clotting, and can assist with pain and swelling. Comes mainly from seafood.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): DHA plays important roles in brain health and several diseases. Also comes mainly from seafood.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): ALA is the type of Omega-3 most commonly consumed in the western diet. It is used primarily used in the body for energy, though it can be converted to DHA and EPA in limited amounts, if needed. It comes from plant sources, like vegetable oils and nuts and seeds, as well as in meats.
What are the Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Beyond regular functioning, consuming more than the minimum amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids can result in a range of health benefits. These include:
- Improved blood fat profiles (triglycerides) and reduced risk for heart disease
- Alleviation of rheumatoid arthritis pain.
- Boosts the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
- May reduce your risk of depression.
- Boosts your baby’s brain and eye development when the mother has a high Omega-3 consumption.
Surprising Sources of Omega-3
Here are some sources of Omega-3 fatty acids you might have never thought to incorporate into your diet:
- Algae and algal oil: even though algae a sea plant, it contains DHA and EPA like seafood. This is a great option for vegetarians and vegans. Make sure to read the label and choose options with greater EPA contents.
- Eggs: we talk about eggs a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but they are also an important source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Some hens are fed so that their eggs are especially high in Omega-3s, and these brands will be sure to tell you so.
- Flax seeds: ground flaxseeds are great for your morning smoothie or in your salad. Not only are they an important source of Omega-3s, they are also high in fiber.
- Walnuts: almonds are usually the nut touted for its high Omega-3 content, but walnuts are generally higher in these all-star fats.
- Beans: beans are a great source of vegetable protein and are also packed with minerals important for our health. Tofu is the type of bean that is highest in Omega-3s.
- Squash and pumpkin: and just in time for the holidays! Pumpkin flesh has an important Omega-3 content, and it is delicious mashed or in soups. For an Omega-3 bonus, toast up pumpkin or squash seeds and eat them as well!
Looking to boost your Omega-3 intake to take advantage of all the health benefits? No need to empty out your wallet buying salmon, or settling for an almond snack every day. You can widen your horizon with these surprising foods that are versatile, delicious, and contain important amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.