Diet Diva
Diet Diva

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Super Nutrient of the Week: Omega 3’s

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Omega 3 supplementsYou probably know at least one person in your life who is taking fish oil, also known as omega 3 fatty acids, but maybe don’t understand why they take it or maybe even the need for it. I will clear up the mystery and highlight the numerous nutritional benefits because omega-3 fats are my super nutrient of the week!

Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and are considered an essential fatty acid because your body cannot manufacture them. You must obtain them from your diet.  Eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids have proven to have many nutritional benefits such as:

  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure and stroke
  • Lower triglycerides and boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Lower cortisol levels which can contribute to fat storage
  • Keep your brain healthy as you age by helping with cognitive function and protecting against dementia and brain disorders.
  • If taken during pregnancy, it helps build brain tissue, eyes, and the nervous system.  Moms-to-be benefit with lower risk of preeclampsia and postpartum depression.

There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids which include the following:

  • EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
  • ALA: Alpha Linolenic acid

ALA typically comes from plant sources like flax, hemp, chia, walnuts, and canola, while EPA and DHA come from seaweed and fish. Research shows the most benefit from EPA/DHA. If you decide you want to take an omega 3 supplement make sure you look for the ingredient label to make sure it has both, and aim for a total of 1000 mg when you add together the DHA and EPA.

Beyond a fish oil supplement, you can get omega 3’s from foods in your everyday diet. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna are all good sources of omega 3’s.

If you don’t plan on eating at least 12 ounces of fatty fish per week, go ahead and take a supplement.  Two of my favorite brands are Nordic Naturals or Nature Made.  If you don’t enjoy “burping” fish oil, Nordic Naturals is highly purified and you won’t taste it, or you can get the “burpless” variety of Nature Made which is enteric coated.

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Tags: Healthy Eating

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MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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