Adding more fish to your diet has been a common recommendation for years and has really gained a lot of attention recently. The main reason why fish is so beloved by health experts is because of its impressive omega-3 fatty acid profile. Fish are an excellent source of omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that the body requires but cannot synthesize. Therefore these vital nutrients must be obtained through diet or supplementation.
Health Benefits of Omega-3s
One major benefit of EFAs are their anti-inflammatory powers. The omega-3 pathway is activated by trauma, injury or chemical stimulus, in the process they are converted to eicosanoids which then works to calm the inflammation process. Since chronic inflammation is known to be the root cause of several modern day diseases, the preventative health benefits of omega-3s are profound.
Many people may also associate omega-3s with cardiovascular health, but their benefits go far beyond the heart. The two main omega-3s—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—promote a healthy immune response but that is too often hindered by the Standard American Diet. Most americans eat too many omega-6 fatty acids which are found in vegetable oils commonly used in processed foods. Too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3’s, means that the body is more prone to chronic inflammation.
Extensive research has documented the health benefits of EPA and DHA, which include not only a healthy heart, but brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normally functioning immune response. The best sources of omega-3s comes from the sea, in the form of fish, sea vegetables and algae.There are also several vegetarian forms of omega-3’s in the form of alpha-lilolenic acid (ALA), and some of this is converted in the body to EPA and DHA, although many experts warn that the conversion process may be hindered in some individuals leaving them deficient in EPA and DHA.
The World Health Organizations recommends a daily intake of 300 -500 milligrams of EPA/DHA for healthy adults, and the American Heart Association raises that level up to 1000 milligrams per day. As a holistic nutritionist I always recommend food first, trying to include 3-4 servings of omega-3 rich foods in your diet each week is a great goal for those seeking the benefits of fatty acids.The best fish to consume are those high in EFAs but low in mercury and other pollutants which include herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines.
If you are consuming fish for EPA/DHA, you still need to included ALA which has many of it’s own important functions and is an essential nutrient. ALA rich plant foods like flaxseed, chia, walnuts and arugula is a great option as well.
When to Supplement
So what about fish oil supplements? Fish oil supplements are regarded as an excellent source of omega-3 EFAs and as I mentioned these EFA contribute to the prevention or treatment of many health conditions. Some people find supplementing with fish oil extremely beneficial for heart health, brain function and calming inflammation. If you are not eating fish regularly, have impaired digestion or need a therapeutic dose of your omega’s supplementation may be the way to go. Vegetarians can find Omega-3 supplements made from Algae which can help enhance the levels of EPA/DHA in their blood. Before starting with any supplements, it is best to speak with our doctor about any contradictions or concerns. The most important thing when choosing a fish oil supplement is to research the manufacturer and be sure to get the highest quality oils available. For tips on choosing the best fish oil read more HERE.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of EFAs or learn more about fish oil supplements schedule a complimentary health and wellness consultation at Santa Cruz CORE Fitness and Rehab today!
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