Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats from the family of polyunsaturated fats. Human body is unable to make this fat on its own and hence it has to be consumed in the form of foods. They are very beneficial for the body and brain. They play a vital role in the smooth functioning of the cell membranes throughout the body as they are required for the cell receptors of these membranes.

There are three main type of omega-3s:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are mostly obtained from fish and hence are also known as marine omega-3s.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in vegetable oils and nuts, leafy vegetables and some animal fats is the most common type of omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is mostly used for energy by human body.

Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fats help prevent heart disease and stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and also protects against cancer and other chronic diseases. One of the most common mental disorders in the world like depression and anxiety can also be kept at bay if the person consumes omega -3 fatty acids regularly. Insufficient DHA could also result in poor vision as it is a major component of eyes retina, and so omega-3s also improve eye health. They also prevent the formation of harmful blood clots. It also helps in reducing blood pressure levels for people who have high blood pressure.

Omega-3 helps in reducing symptoms of metabolic syndrome like obesity, insulin resistance, and low HDL cholesterol levels. Chronic and long term inflammation can also be prevented with the help of omega-3s. Some studies have shown that high intake of omega-3s reduces the risk of age related disease like Alzheimer’s. It also promotes brain growth and development during pregnancy and in infants. According to some studies consumption of omega 3s lowers the risk of asthma in children.it also helps boost overall bone health. They are also very good for skin as they avoid premature aging, reduce risk of acne, and controls excess oil production.

Deficiency of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 deficiency has a major effect on the skin of a person. In fact it is the first place where symptoms of Omega-3 deficiency can be noticed with problems like extra sensitivity, dry skin or increase in acne. Since Omega-3 fats have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, they are very essential for good brain health. A diet high in omega-3 reduces the risk of any mental health disorder and also helps in treating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and bipolar disease. Insufficient omega-3 could lead to poor eye health with conditions like dry eyes syndrome. According to some studies omega 3 also helps reduce joint pain and stiffness in older people. Just like skin, omega 3 deficiency has an adverse effect on hair, causing problems like hair loss, change in hair quality and density. Taking omega3 supplements may help with hair loss.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Daily Requirement

Except for ALA, recommended allowance for Omega-3 fats have not been established yet by experts. Average daily recommended amounts for ALA are listed below in grams (g). The amount you need may vary depending on your age and sex.

Life StageRecommended Amount of ALA
Birth to 12 months*0.5 g
Children 1–3 years0.7 g
Children 4–8 years0.9 g
Boys 9–13 years1.2 g
Girls 9–13 years1.0 g
Teen boys 14–18 years1.6 g
Teen girls 14–18 years1.1 g
Men1.6 g
Women1.1 g
Pregnant teens and women1.4 g
Breastfeeding teens and women1.3 g
*As total omega-3s. All other values are for ALA alone.
SOURCE : [1]

Omega-3 Rich Foods

Below is the list of top 10 foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids

1Flaxseed

Originating from Southern Europe and Asia, flax is a food and also a fiber crop. Flaxseeds are reddish brown and golden yellow in color. Surprisingly these seeds contain very high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids ALA. They are loaded with other nutrients too like protein, fiber, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6. Flaxseeds help in preventing cholesterol deposition in the blood vessels of the heart, which also helps in reducing inflammation in the arteries. Also, flaxseeds may help in reducing cancer. It also helps lower blood pressure. Flaxseeds are also a great source of plant-based protein and are an ideal alternative for vegans.

  • Per 100gm of flaxseeds contain 22.813 g of omega 3s. [2]
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