Are you at constant war with the weighing scale? Have you turned your back on French fries, lechon and all the painfully good stuff, in the name of better health? If you think all fats are bad, think again. Meet the good guys: omega-3 fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
PUFAs are vital elements of a healthy diet because our bodies can’t produce them—which is why they’re called essential fatty acids. Despite their limited supply, they play huge roles in preventing some serious chronic diseases. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Furthermore, they boost brain memory and performance, and a lack of them will result in memory problems, dry skin, depression, circulation problems and easy fatigability.
To get the benefits of omega-3, it might be good to go on a Mediterranean diet—which features a lot of PUFA-rich fish, olive oil, garlic and whole grains. Fish high in the good fat include salmon, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, herring and tuna. Eating these two to three times a week is recommended by experts.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
• Fish oil: contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
• Nuts, like English walnuts: has alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
• Vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean, flaxseed or linseed, olive: rich in ALA
Current evidence demonstrates that DHA and EPA lower triglycerides and blood pressure, as well as the incidence of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, strokes and heart arrhythmia. ALA has less documented benefits, but gets partially converted into DHA and EPA in the body.
Beyond the diet
For people who can’t up their dietary intake, some multivitamins are now enriched with omega-3. Those who stand to benefit include teenagers who aren’t eating well or getting enough exercise; women suffering from stress or pre-menstrual syndrome, or preparing for pregnancy or menopause; and men who need to increase their energy, boost their immunity, and lower their cardiovascular risk. Ask your doctor about the right dose and form of omega-3 for you.
Find out more about the benefits of omega-3. Grab a copy of HealthToday’s July issue, out now in newsstands and bookstores.