April Nutrient of the Month: Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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April Nutrient of the Month: Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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By: Amanda Miller MS, RN

When it comes to Omega 3 fatty acids, there are few nutrients that pack this many health benefits into one compound. It is quite the understatement to stay Omega 3’s are crucial to achieving optimal health. In fact, they benefit everything from fetal development to heart health and stress reduction.

Omega 3’s are a polyunsaturated fatty acid and consist of 4 different types.

Kinds of Omega 3’s:

  1. Alpha – Linoleic Acid (ALA): Found in green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
  2. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): Found in oily fish, algae oil, and krill oil
  3. Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA): Foundrichly in roe oil and green-lipped mussels
  4. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA):Again found in oily fish, algae oil, and krill oil.

So you might be wondering, what about Omega 6’s? Your body does also need omega 6’s, just not in the high amounts modern Americans are used to consuming. Healthy forms of Omega 6 can be found in things like nuts and seeds. However, inflammatory Omega 6’s are found in processed vegetable oils such as canola oil, corn oil, sunflower/safflower oil, soybean oil, etc. and are now an unfortunate staple of the standard American diet. In turn, omega 3’s are forced out and the ratio preferred by the body is driven down. Ideally to keep inflammation low, and lower your risk for chronic disease, it is best to keep a 1:1 omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. Consuming healthful forms of both rather than inflammatory forms.

First, let’s take a look at why it’s so important to consume high amounts of omega 3’s. Check out the list of some of the most important benefits:

Good for Heart Health

  • Lowers triglycerides, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  • Regulating cholesterol by increasing HDL, a beneficial lipid
  • Potentially lowering high blood pressure
  • Preventing plaque buildup
  • Lowering metabolic syndrome, helping to protect you from the related diseases
  • Preventing blood clots

Good for Brain Health

  • Depression & Anxiety: ​Several studies​ suggest that people suffering with signs of
    depression and/or anxiety see improvement afte​r ​adding an omega-3 supplement
    to their routines, even in ​double-blinded​, ​randomized​, ​controlled trials​.
  • Cognitive Decline: ​Small clinical trials​ ​have seen a​ ​potentially neuroprotective
    effect​ of omega-3 fats on people suffering from dementia, age-related mental
    decline and even Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that high levels of omega-3s in
    the blood can help to slow or even ​reverse some cognitive decline​.=

Reducing inflammation

  • One reason​ omega-3 fatty acids ​may be so beneficial​ to such a wide​ ​array of
    aspects of health​ ​could be that ​they help to decrease​ systemic ​inflammation​.
    Inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases. Eating a nutrient-dense,
    anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega 3’s, gives your body what it needs to get
    back into balance.

Managing Autoimmune Conditions

  • Multiple studies​ have found ​links between​ high ​omega-3 intake​ and a ​decreased
    risk​ for autoimmune diseases or ​an improvement​ in autoimmune disease
    symptoms.

Bone and Joint Health

  • omega-3s, are recognized in the scientific literature as able to increase the
    amount of calcium you absorb​ from your gut (partly by enhancing the effect of
    vitamin D) and improve the strength of your bones

Infant and Child Development

  •  It is important for developing babies and children to get a ​good amount of EPA and DHA​ ​so their​ ​brains and eyes develop fully​ and properly. In fact, it was found that children with mothers who supplement with omega-3s during pregnancy scored better on mental processing, psychomotor, hand-eye coordination and audial processing tests at ​nine months​ and ​four years of age​. These children also seemed to have lower risk for ADHD.

Better Sleep Quality

  • Both ​adults​ and c​ hildren​ have been shown to get more poor quality of sleep
    when omega 3 levels are low. Subsequently this tends to improve with
    supplementation of EPA/DHA supplementation.

Support skin health

  • DHA and EPA both ​support skin health​ by controlling oil production and
    decreasing signs of aging. Omega 3’s also decrease inflammatory conditions of
    the skin such as ​acne​,​ psoriasis, and eczema because of its antiinflammatory
    properties.

Pack these Omega 3 Rich foods on your plate:

  • Seeds: pumpkin, sesame and chia, flax and hemp – all of which contain omega 3 fats
  • Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, herring and wild salmon that are rich in omega 3fats
  • Avocados
  • Nuts: walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; but not peanuts
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pasture raised/Grass-fed animal products, including eggs (which have more omega 3fats than conventionally or industrially raised animal products)
  • Extra-virgin coconut butter, which is a great plant-based source of saturated fat that fuels your mitochondria and is anti-inflammatory

Supplementation:

You may need to supplement with Omega 3’s, especially if you do not consume enough in your diet or have gut abnormalities/absorption issues. The two animal-based types I recommend are fish oil and cod liver oil, and algal oil is among the plant sources of omega-3.Akasha Naturals carries well sourced omega 3 supplementation, as well as Nordic Naturals,Thorne, Integrative Therapeutics, Ortho molecular, to name a few others.

Amanda Miller, MS, RN is the Clinical Integrative Nutrition Nurse Consultant at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine, you can schedule and appointment by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at info@akashacenter.com

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