Omega-3 Fatty Acids: General Info

Folk wisdom and casual observations tell us that societies who include a significant proportion of fish in their daily diets, such as the northern Inuit and Japanese, suffer a markedly lower rate of heart attacks and strokes compared to western societies. In 1996, the American Heart Association released a landmark study that confirmed the health benefits provided by the regular consumption of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically Omega-3, cannot be made by human metabolism and must be sourced from certain foods, especially fish, nuts, and flax seeds.

Salmon and oily mackerel are high in Omega 3!

Cold-water fish with darker flesh such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines have the highest concentrations of Omega-3. The American Heart Association report recommends eating these types of fatty, cold-water fish twice per week to maintain optimum levels of Omega-3 in the body.

Not all fish are alike, however, even though they may have the same name. Many recent studies have noted differences in the nutritional values of farmed and wild fish. Farmed fish tend to have less Omega-3 in their tissues, and in the case of salmon the feed contains dyes that tint the fish's flesh pink. Wild salmon get their rosy pink color from the natural foods they eat in the deep ocean and rivers. Another concern about farmed fish is that they often have higher levels of PCBs and mercury than wild fish. Additionally, critics of farmed fish point to the higher incidence of disease in farmed fish that are forced to live in more confined quarters and at higher population densities than in the wild.

For more information on the benefits of farmed food versus wild food see the following article from TheDietChannel: Fish Safety & Buying Guide.

Omega 3 is good for your health

Omega-3 is used in the body to make, repair, and maintain cell membranes. The cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems all need Omega-3 fatty acids. A deficiency of Omega-3 in the diet has been linked to serious illnesses such as depression, heart disease, and strokes.

Gradually we are coming to appreciate the differences between "good fats" and "bad fats". Omega-3 is squarely in the "good fat" category. It tends to reduce triglycerides (dangerous fats that can cause heart disease) in the bloodstream and rebalance the ratio of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in favor of beneficial high-density cholesterol (HDL). Too much LDL cholesterol leads to the formation of hard fatty plaques in the arteries that reduce blood flow and cause heart attacks and strokes. Some research indicates that HDL cholesterol helps reduce and even eliminate these plaques.

On the whole, adding a little cold-water fish to your diet can bring a lot of benefits to your health. Make sure you seek out fresh, wild-caught fish as they have the greatest amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.