What exactly are omega-3s? Why are they important for your health? The most simple explanation I’ve seen, comes from the book Eat, Drink , and be Healthy, by Dr. Walter Willett. Regarding omega-3s, Dr. Willett wrote:
“They are essential fats…your body needs them for normal functions, and it can’t make them from scratch.”
How powerful is that! Your body can’t manufacture omega-3s, yet needs them for your body to properly function.
Researchers have found that omega-3s, help with the fluidity of the cell membranes in your body. These cell membranes allow necessary nutrients to enter the cells, while also removing waste products from the cells. Healthier cells lead to a healthier life for you. For a good discussion of this process, check out this article at WHFoods.com.
There are three main types of omega-3s. I promise this will be the only time in this series I’ll use big time words, but these are the official names:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA);
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA);
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
In most Western diets, ALA is the primary source of omega-3s. ALA is found in vegetable oils and nuts, leafy vegetables, and grass-fed animal fats. The primary source EPA and DHA is fish, also called Marine omega-3s. According to Dr. Willett, your body uses ALA mainly for energy. However, your body can also transform ALA into EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, EPA and DHA don’t transform into ALA. Since the body does not convert enough ALA into the EPA and DHA forms of omega-3s, so you may need to take omega-3 supplements to meet your deficiency.
Research has shown that DHA, has an important role in the health of brain and nerve cells. Additionally, EPA has been shown to aid in the prevention of hearth disease. Omega-3s also produce hormones, that regulate inflammation and help keep heart artery walls flexible. There are extensive scientific discussions regarding omega-3s, far beyond the intended scope of this post. However, if you’d like to read all the science stuff, check out this article from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
When you join me for Part 3 of this series, you’ll find out great sources for getting more omega-3s in your diet. It’s your life, live well.