What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids and How Can You Consume Them?

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids and How Can You Consume Them?
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Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are beneficial for the body. They have been shown to improve cardiac health, brain function, and bone and joint health.

You can find omega-3 fatty acids in a variety of foods and supplement your intake using omega-3 supplements, of which there are plenty on the market.

In this article, we’re going to delve deeper into omega-3 fatty acids. In particular, we will cover each type and the different ways in which you can consume them to experience their many health benefits. We will cover dietary sources and supplements so you can discover the best omega-3 products for your needs.

Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The different types of omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The former two come from fish sources, and the latter is a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegetarian sources of omega-3s are often lower in bioavailability than EPA and DHA. This means the body is less efficient in absorbing and using them, so a higher dose of vegetarian omega-3s is required for maximum benefit.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

EPA is primarily found in fatty or oily fish. It has potent anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

DHA is also found in fatty fish. Research has suggested it plays a significant role in supporting cognitive function, improving intellect, and encouraging brain development in a growing fetus during pregnancy. It’s also beneficial for the eyes and joints.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

ALA comes from plant-based sources, such as nuts and seeds. The body converts it into EPA or DHA when consumed, although this conversion isn’t at a rate of 100%, so you’d need to consume a higher amount of ALA to experience the same benefits as a smaller concentration of EPA and DHA.

How Can You Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to consume omega-3 fatty acids, so you can support your body and maximize your health with ease. The two main ways to include these unsaturated fatty acids in your diet are through foods and supplements.

Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty or oily fish species, including salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies, are by far the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. To increase your intake of EPA, DHA, and ALA, you can also include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and Brussels sprouts in your diet.

Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids

If you’re struggling to consume the above foods and feel that you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet, you can include a supplement in your daily routine. When searching for an omega-3 supplement, search for one that contains at least 1,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA to ensure maximum efficacy.

Those of you who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet will need to find an ALA-based omega-3 supplement to avoid consuming fish oils. Note that you’ll generally need a higher dosage of ALA compared to EPA and DHA because of the lower bioavailability of plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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