Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and essential for our body, that is, our body cannot manufacture them. That is why we must obtain them through foods such as oily fish and vegetable oils. Omega 3 provides many benefits for the heart and blood circulation.
Omega 3 functions
The heart benefits the most from a good supply of omega 3, since this fatty acid has anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant properties. Among the functions of Omega 3 are:
- Decreased triglycerides in the blood, LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Decreased blood pressure and the incidence of arrhythmias, and reduction of platelet aggregation.
- Participation in the development and function of the nervous system central, being able to have a favorable effect regarding the symptoms of depression.
As we mentioned it is an essential fat, which means that our body cannot manufacture it, just as it does other fatty acids.
That is why, and because it is of great importance to our health, what we must include it in our usual diet.
Sources of obtaining Omega 3
As we have mentioned, omega 3 refers to a set of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the important ones to be highlighted would be:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
Of these, those that are related to the aforementioned functions are EPA and DHA. These types of fatty acids are found in foods of animal origin, such as blue fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) and shellfish. Moreover, the seaweed they also contain good amounts of these fatty acids.
On the other hand, the ALA is found in vegetarian foodsuch as canola oil, flax, and walnuts.
And how do vegetarians eat Omega 3?
People who eat vegetarian can get Omega 3 through algae, and the fatty acid ALA, present in foods of plant origin.
Our body is capable of converting ALA to EPA and DHA, and thus obtaining the benefits of these two fatty acids. According to the FESNAD recommendations for the European population, it is enough to ensure the intake of ALA, at a rate of 1 - 1,5 g / day, to obtain adequate levels of EPA and DHA.
We can obtain this by consuming one of these options per day:
- 10 - 15 gr of walnuts
- 5-8 gr of flax seeds
- 2'5 - 5 g of linseed oil
- 2 - 3 tablespoons chia
Chia seeds can be added to yogurts or salads, if we hydrate them previously. As well as flax seeds, you can add crushed ones on top of any dish, or use the oil to season meals. As for walnuts, it is perfectly recommended to take a handful of these a day (30 gr).
Balance between Omega 3 and 6
To finish off all this information, we must talk about the balance between these two families of fatty acids.
Omega 6 is another group of polyunsaturated fatty acids, whose presence in the diet is also essential. These two groups of fats work together to maintain a correct function of our immune system (inflammatory processes and blood clotting). To achieve this, they must be in balance, at a ratio of (approximately) 3: 1, as omega 6 to omega 3.
The problem is that the usual diet of our society provides a balance of 10: 1, even being able to reach 30: 1.
This is due to the fact that omega 6 fatty acids are found in products made with vegetable oils (fried foods, pastries, margarines, etc.) and in the fat of products of animal origin (fatty meats, eggs, dairy products, etc. .).
This imbalance can favor the development of chronic inflammation, hardening of the arteries, heart disease, etc. For this reason, it is important to add good amounts of foods rich in Omega 3.
Recommendations on Omega 3 and Omega 6
For all these reasons, the recommendations for the entire population regarding these fats are directed in two directions:
- Reduce the intake of Omega 6 in the diet. Reducing the consumption of fried foods, industrial pastries, margarines, And the consumption of meat in general, but above all processed, fatty and red.
- Increase the consumption of foods rich in Omega 3. Establishing a consumption de twice a week of blue fish (prioritizing those of small caliber), providing a handful of nuts a day (especially nuts), or using the tips mentioned on the chia and flax seeds.
Spanish Nutrition Foundation: https://www.fen.org.es/blog/el-omega-3-y-su-impacto-en-la-salud/