Tags: fish oil | omega-3 | diet

Fish Oil: What's the Best Way to Add Omega-3 Fatty Acid to Diet?

Image: Fish Oil: What's the Best Way to Add Omega-3 Fatty Acid to Diet?
The box of sardines in oil.

By    |   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 01:05 PM

As scientific evidence mounts for the beneficial health properties of omega-3 fatty acids, the fish oil industry has grown tremendously and more people are making a conscious effort to include fish in their diets.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are used by the body for functions like blood clotting and brain function. Our bodies do not make omega-3s, and so they must be ingested through food.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function,”  the University of Maryland Medical Center said. “In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.”

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There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids. One type contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and is found in vegetable oils like canola and soybean, and also in green vegetables like kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts.

The second kind of omega-3 is the one you hear talked about with regard to heart health, decreasing inflammation, and other possible beneficial health effects. This type comes from fatty fish, the Harvard website said, and has eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

If possible, many health professionals recommend that people get their omega-3s from eating oily fish like salmon, herring, and tuna, rather than through supplements. Some studies have indicated that the additional proteins and vitamins that are included when eating fish, as opposed to taking supplements, are part of the benefits associated with omega-3s.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should eat two 3.5-ounce servings of oily fish every week. Pregnant women and young children should watch the amount of fish they eat, though, because of concerns about being exposed to contaminants like mercury and other toxins.

The fact that many fish have high levels of mercury and other contaminants concerns many people, but the Mayo Clinic said those risks are “generally outweighed” by the benefits of getting more omega-3 fatty acids.

“The main types of toxins in fish are mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The amount of toxins depends on the type of fish and where it's caught,” the website said. “Mercury occurs naturally in small amounts in the environment. But industrial pollution can produce mercury that accumulates in lakes, rivers and oceans, which turns up in the food fish eat. When fish eat this food, mercury builds up in the bodies of the fish.”

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Larger fish, like sharks and swordfish, tend to have higher mercury levels. The Mayo Clinic’s website recommended paying attention to what you’re eating, and looking for any advisories issued regarding fish caught in certain areas.

There are small amounts of omega-3s in products other than fish.

“Other nonfish food options that do contain some omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil,” the website said. “However, similar to supplements, the evidence of heart-healthy benefits from eating these foods isn't as strong as it is from eating fish.”

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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As scientific evidence mounts for the beneficial health properties of omega-3 fatty acids, the fish oil industry has grown tremendously and more people are making a conscious effort to include fish in their diets.
fish oil, omega-3, diet
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2014-05-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 01:05 PM
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