We have all heard of the benefits of eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, but what exactly are these benefits and who can get the most from them? Faith Mather, a registered nutritionist at Michigan Medicine’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center, says omega-3s can benefit groups of people in different ways.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid and a type of unsaturated fat, says Mather. “The body needs it in small amounts, and since our bodies cannot produce it, the only way we can get omega-3s is through our diet.”
If you have an existing heart condition or are at risk for heart disease, omega-3s can help fight inflammation that can further damage blood vessels, says Mather.
“Recent studies and systematic reviews have found a lower risk of heart failure, coronary disease and fatal coronary heart disease in heart patients with higher fish consumption and higher dietary omega-3s.”
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What is surprising is that these cardio-protective effects don’t necessarily apply to the general population, she says, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care.
Another kind of benefit
For those who do not have heart disease or who are not at risk of heart disease to consume foods high in content Omega 3 Fatty acids are beneficial for an entirely different reason.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon are usually better choices than foods high in saturated fat like bacon, cheeseburgers, or fried foods. “By replacing foods high in omega-3s with foods high in saturated fat, you are making healthy choices naturally,” says Mather.
Good sources are oily fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybean and soybean oil, unsalted nuts, leafy green vegetables, avocados, and legumes.
“Because these foods also tend to be lower in calories, they help achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” says Mather.
Saturated versus unsaturated
Understanding the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats helps when discussing omega-3 fatty acids.
All fat molecules found in food have long tails that can be saturated (completely filled with hydrogen atoms) or unsaturated (not completely filled with hydrogen atoms). When the fatty acid tail is filled or saturated with hydrogen, the tail is stiff and stiff. Rigid tails can block arteries and lead to heart disease, Mather explains.
In comparison, unsaturated fatty acid tails are not rigid and can move or flow. Unsaturated fats are called healthy fats because they have antioxidant effects in the body while remaining fluid.
The final result
For omega-3 fatty acids, the FDA recommends 2 grams (2000 mg) per day. This is the amount Mather prescribes to her heart patients.
“For some it is difficult to get the right levels through food, so fish oil supplementation might be recommended,” she says. “Heart patients should speak to their doctor to decide if a supplement is right for them and to make sure they are using one that has been verified and contains approximately 1 gram or more of omega-3s.”
If you are not at risk for heart disease, the The jury is not yet sure how much omega-3 fatty acids to consume in a day. But the bottom line?
“Eating foods rich in omega-3s is better for anyone who has heart problems or who are at risk for heart disease. If you aren’t, just remember that foods that contain omega-3s are better for you than processed foods or foods high in saturated fat. Choosing omega-3 foods is a good substitute for unhealthy foods. Everything points to a healthy diet. ”
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