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What are Omega 3s and why do I need them?

The human body is capable of enormous feats, and very often it is able to produce what it needs in order to survive. It can, for example, make most of the fats it needs from the raw materials of what we eat. It can’t, however, make ‘essential fats’ and, as a result, we must get them from food.

The main Omega-3 fatty acids, and the ones you might see in the nutritional info of supplements, are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) & docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While there is no exact recommended daily intake of Omega-3s, most health organisations suggest a minimum of 250-500g of combined EPA and DHA daily. These have several benefits:

  • Reduce inflammation, thus promoting healthy joints

  • Lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease

  • Assist in development of healthy brains in unborn children

  • Improve heart muscle function, thereby reducing risks of heart arrhythmia.

Whilst these may seem like generic statements overused by brands to sell products, almost artificial in their promises, there is some interesting research to back them up. It can be summarised as follows - according to Heart UK, a cholesterol charity, ‘In countries where people eat more oily fish, such as in the Mediterranean, Greenland and Japan, fewer people have heart disease compared to countries where people eat very little oily fish, such as the UK’. They then go on to say that, on the whole, doctors believe that more benefits ‘come from eating foods that contain Omega-3s rather than over-the-counter supplements’. This is one reason you’ll find so many ingredients that contain Omega-3s in our dishes.

 

What food is the best source of Omega-3s?

Oily fish, whether fresh, canned or frozen, is often seen as the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. A few examples include:

  • Salmon

  • Anchovy

  • Trout

  • Swordfish

  • Herring

  • Halibut

  • Mackerel

 

Several plant foods are also high in Omega-3 fats, particularly ALA. For example:

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Kale

  • Spinach

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

 

Nuts and seeds can contain a fair amount. If you’re ever feeling peckish, the best ones to snack on include:

  • Walnuts

  • Peanuts

  • Hazelnuts

  • Pumpkin seed

  • Flaxseed

 

In summary, as the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health recommends, it is important to try to eat fish or other seafood at least once or twice per week. That is why this week alone, there is fish on the menu Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Next week, that rises to all five days.

Nutrition Kitchen is a great believer in the benefits of Omega-3s as part of a healthy diet. Needless to say, fish (generally seen as the best source) also contains a multitude of other vitamins that make them no-brainers to include as much as possible.

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