Omega-3s and Your Heart: Benefits and Sources

Omega-3s and Your Heart: Benefits and Sources

Omega-3 fatty acids have had plenty of attention in recent years, ranging from their antioxidant activity to their potential applications in joint health, brain function, and benefits for skin, hair, and eyes. The most prominent interest in omega-3s, however, has been in their association with heart health. This link was first studied in the 1940s and since then, there has been mixed but overall positive correlations found for most people. In this article, we’re examining the role of omega-3s in heart health and how to get the most benefit. 

What are Omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Chemically, PUFAs contain more than one double bond in their structure and are liquid at room temperature. For example, think of the difference between olive oil, high in PUFAs, and coconut oil, high in saturated fat, in your cabinet. 

Omega-3s are also essential nutrients. This means while we need them, the human body can’t produce them internally and, therefore, we have to get them from external sources. 

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, including: 

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA is primarily found in plant sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. It’s also the precursor to EPA and DHA, which are predominantly found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in various bodily functions, including supporting a normal inflammatory response, brain function, and cardiovascular well-being. 

Omega-3s and Heart Health: What the Science Says

Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their relationship with heart health. Research indicates that having enough omega-3s, particularly EPA and DHA, may have protective effects on the heart in several ways. 

For example, a higher presence of omega-3 in your body may benefit inflammation, blood pressure, the function of blood vessels, and triglyceride levels. 

Getting omega-3s from whole food sources is the optimal approach. Research is mixed on the effects of omega-3 supplements on heart health and there’s currently not a scientific consensus on using them. The majority of evidence points to their potential benefits for reducing certain heart health risk factors, but they may not be a good option for everyone. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions. 

How to Get More Omega-3s 

The best way to incorporate more omega-3s into your diet is to regularly consume fatty fish, which are rich in EPA and DHA. Examples include anchovies, bluefin tuna, herring, salmon, and mackerel. The American Heart Association says eating at least two 3-ounce servings per week is a good goal.

You can also get ALA in your diet from plant-based foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. 

Note that while ALA is the precursor to EPA and DHA, the conversion between them is low, ranging around 5-8%. Therefore, it’s good to incorporate ALA in your diet, but it’s important to get direct sources of EPA and DHA as well.

If you don’t consume many omega-3-rich foods, you might consider adding a supplement. It’s always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before adding a new supplement to your diet, to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for you.

The most widely talked about omega-3 supplement is fish oil. However, there are also plant-based omega-3 supplements available, which are derived from marine algae instead. Whichever option you choose, consider Naturelo Fish Oil with Triglyceride Omega-3 or Vegan DHA Supplement with Omega-3 from Algae


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