For most of the Eighties and Nineties, fat was considered something to be avoided at all costs. People went to great lengths to replace fat in their food, often by adding sugar and other fillers to replace the taste and satiety feeling fat provides. Luckily, however, fat is beginning to make a comeback in our diet. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that fat is necessary to our health, particularly omega 3 fatty acids. Omega -3’s are an essential fatty acid, meaning our body cannot produce them on it’s own. These inflammation fighting fats must be obtained from our diet. Two crucial ones, EPA and DHA, are primarily found in certain fish and pasture raised beef. ALA, another omega-3 fatty acid which can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. The benefits of omega-3s are well documented in the scientific literature.
- Fish oil supplements seem to help with rheumatoid arthritis by decreasing stiffness and joint pain.
- Omega-3’s may protect against heart disease and stroke.
- DHA is important for visual and neurological development in infants.
- Fish oil supplements seem to help combat depression and can be important in the fight against postpartum depression. It seems to increase the effectiveness of some antidepressants.
- Omega-3’s may also help in the treatment of ADHD and dementia.
Now that the benefits of Omega-3’s are obvious, you may be wondering how to increase this necessary substance in your diet. Scientists recommend trying to get your omega-3’s from your food not through supplementation. Salmon, tuna, anchovies, herring, blue fish, lake trout, grass fed beef, eggs from pasture raised chickens, sturgeon and sardines are all good sources. (However, with the concerns about methyl mercury in fish experts recommend you limit your exposure to large, predatory fish to no more than 7 oz a week- less if you are pregnant or a child.) Vegetarian sources of omega-3’s include flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, cauliflower, purslane, perilla oil and chia seeds. Unfortunately, it is unclear if these vegetarian sources provide as many of the benefits as non-vegetarian sources. Most vegetarian sources contain ALA which our body must then convert into DHA and EPA to reap the benefits. It is estimated that as little as only 5% of ALA actually gets converted by the body. Supplementation may be necessary for vegans and vegetarians to meet all their omega- 3 needs.
With all this compelling information about the amazing benefits of including healthy, tasty fats in your diet, tell me how you plan to ensure you are meeting your need for omega-3’s.