Omega 3’s offer a number of potential health benefits from lowering blood pressure to boosting mood. But how much omega 3 per day do you need and what is the best source?
In this article, we will explore some common questions around these essential fats plus go over what the research says about how much we need in per day. In addition, we will take a look at which foods are high in omega 3 and how to incorporate these as part of an overall balanced diet.
Let’s dive in!
What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat that our bodies need to function. They are an essential part of cell membranes throughout the body and have a number of functions in the heart, lungs, immune system, blood vessels and endocrine system. While most fats can be manufactured from other sources, omega 3s must be consumed from food. This is why they are called essential fats.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the three main omega 3 fatty acids (DHA).
Is omega 3 the same as fish oil?
Omega 3 is not the same as fish oil although they are related. Fish oil is a general term for oil derived from oily fish tissue. While it contains the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, it does not contain ALA. Instead, ALA is mostly found in plant sources like nuts and seeds. Put simply, while all fish oils will contain omega 3s, not all omega 3 comes from fish oil or fish.
What Is Omega 3 Good For
Omega 3 is good for a number of health benefits, most notably a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, a 2019 meta-analysis of more than 13 trials and over 120,000 participants found that omega 3 supplementation reduced the risk of myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular death, and overall cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, some research has suggested that omega 3 is also good for:
- Infant Health
- Cancer Prevention
- Alzheimer’s Prevention
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Childhood Allergies
However, more study is need to confirm all of these potential benefits. You should always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Does omega 3 lower cholesterol?
Omega 3 does not lower cholesterol – at least not directly. However, some research suggests that they may have a positive impact on cholesterol through the influence of high-density lipoproteins or “good cholesterol”. In addition, high dose omega 3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and prevent coronary plaque progression.
What Foods Have Omega 3
Foods that have omega 3 fatty acids include fish, nuts, seeds, and certain types of fortified foods. Foods from plant sources like vegetable oils, nuts/seeds, and leafy vegetables contain ALA. Additionally, some animal fats will contain ALA as well. On the other hand, fish and other seafood contain DHA and EPA.
Generally, consuming food with essential fats is preferable to supplements. The foods with the highest amount of DHA and EPA are salmon and herring, while flaxseed oil and chia seeds are a great source of ALA.
Other foods that are high in omega 3s include:
- Flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils
Does shrimp have omega 3?
Yes, shrimp does have omega 3. According to the USDA, a 3oz serving of cooked shrimp contains .12g of both DHA and EPA. However, shrimp does not contain any ALA. Uncooked and precooked shrimp are widely available in most major supermarkets.
Does tuna have omega 3?
Yes, tuna does have omega 3. A 3oz serving of uncanned tuna contains about .17g of DHA and .02g of EPA. In addition, yellowfin tuna also contains these essential fats but to a lesser extent. The USDAs Food Data Central allows you to search for any food to determine its nutritional content. Tuna is widely available in nearly every market.
How Much Omega 3 Per Day?
Unfortunately, there is no consensus to how much omega 3 per day is appropriate with regard to EPA and DHA. However, the National Institute of Health recommends the following amount of ALA based on age and sex.
Despite no recommendation for how much DHA and EPA you need, the American Heart Association (AHA) does suggest one to two servings of seafood per week to reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition, for individuals with heart disease, the AHA suggests consuming about 1 g of EPA plus DHA.
Can you take too much omega 3?
Yes, you can take too much omega 3 however the side effects are usually mild. The FDA recommends consuming no more than 5g/day of EPA and DHA from supplements with side effects including unpleasant taste in the mouth, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, stomach discomfort, and headache.
In addition, high doses of omega 3 may cause issues with bleeding especially when combined with some medications like Warfarin. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you start taking any new supplement to avoid potential complications.
When To Take Omega 3
Deciding when to take omega 3 really depends on your dietary habits because food is the best way to consume these essential fats. However, if you don’t regularly eat fish or subscribe to a vegetarian lifestyle then a supplement may be right to you. Talk to your doctor if you think you might benefit from a supplement as they will be able to provide specific guidance and help you determine an acceptable dosage.
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