Contrary to what many people believe, we need fat in our diet. However, it’s important that we eat healthy fats and limit unhealthy ones. Research shows that fats including trans-fats – which are highly processed fats with no health benefits – and saturated fats high in cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins are bad for health. One type of healthy fat is omega-3 fat / fatty acids.
There are three types of omega-3 fats:
Two of the three most important omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The third, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in many plants including seeds, nuts, and some green vegetables.
Your body can convert a small amount—about 8%—of dietary ALA to EPA.
Health benefits of Omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to:
Ensure the heart maintains a steady beat, which may guard against potentially deadly, erratic rhythms.
Prevent the formation of dangerous clots in the bloodstream.
Lower levels of triglycerides, the most common type of fat-carrying particle in the bloodstream.
Lower your risk of coronary artery disease and dying of heart disease.
Improve brain function.
What about vegans and people who don’t eat fish? Dr. Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health, explains that you should eat plenty of ALA-rich foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and soybean or canola oil. Green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, spinach, and kale also contain small amounts of ALA.
Omega-3 fatty supplements may help boost your levels if you are at high risk of heart disease or dementia. Don’t worry if you don’t like the taste, they come in capsule form too.
People who are on blood thinning drugs, who have bleeding disorders or who have fish or shellfish allergies should not take omega-3 supplements. Supplements should be stopped at least two weeks before any surgery.
Picture Credit Creator: Dutko | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto