With age comes wisdom. But what also comes with age are ailments like poor eyesight, weak bones, joint pains, abnormal blood pressure and weak memory. Interestingly, all these symptoms result from a single nutrient deficiency. The problem is, our bodies do not produce it. Yes, the nutrient is the much-acclaimed omega-3 fatty acid. It has more benefits than you can fathom.
The only way our bodies could get omega-3 is through food and supplements. So it comes as no surprise that 98% of the world population suffers from omega-3 deficiency. However, if you continue reading, we can help you discover the benefits and multiple sources of omega-3 and how it can improve your life for the better!
Chemical Composition of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids commonly called PUFA. However, they cannot be synthesized in the human body and consumed orally. They lie in the 900 to 1000 AMU range and are essential fatty acids.
The three main components of Omega-3 are:
- Linoleic Acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid(DHA)
Omega-3 is a storehouse of minerals. These minerals are beta carotene, biotin, calcium, folic acid, iron, lutein, lycopene and magnesium. As a result, omega-3 and its benefits have been subject to detailed research over the years.
Various Benefits of Omega-3
1. Improves Eyesight
A regular dosage of Omega-3 could help in preserving vision. DHA, the primary component of Omega-3, also constitutes the majority of the retina. Studies prove that omega-3 can reduce the chances of macular degeneration.
It also prevents dry eye syndrome and vision loss in old age. In addition, you can include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to reduce the symptoms of glaucoma. A person with no eye-related ailment can also benefit from omega-3 because it improves vision in six months.
2. Promote Heart Health
The constant talk of ‘science town’ is related to the coastal areas and fishing community. The fishermen are less likely to die from a stroke or heart attack than the average population. Decades of studies attribute it to omega-3. It is abundant in fish and other seafood, forming part of staple diets in these regions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids have multiple properties that directly improve cardiovascular functioning. Some of these are:
- Omega-3 can reduce the triglycerides of an average human being by 15 to 30%.
- Omega-3 rich diet leads to lesser and more controlled blood pressure.
- Studies show that omega-3’s prove efficient in raising ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and decreasing the amount of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
- Omega-3 fatty acids also prevent irregular blood clots inside the arteries, proving fatal and even resulting in death.
- Omega-3 keeps the arteries plaque-free, without any excess deposition. That keeps the pressure under check and reduces the chances of stroke.
- Omega-3 also shows anti-inflammatory properties against antigenic reactions.
3. Brain Development
Every pregnant woman is prescribed an additional omega-3 dosage by her doctor. They improve brain health and growth in infants and growing kids. In addition, research shows that omega-3 aids neural health.
- 40% of the brain’s polyunsaturated fatty acids and 60% of the retina’s polyunsaturated fatty acids are DHA. It is a significant component of omega-3.
- Infants with regular intake of omega-3 have shown higher IQ and EQ than their counterparts.
- Omega-3 enables better ‘behavioural development’ and reduced ‘developmental delay’ in children.
- Omega-3 also reduces the chances of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy in developing children.
4. Improves Mental Health
Mental health is just as important as physical well being. And omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to improve one’s state of mind.
- Omega-3 is effective against symptoms of anxiety such as constant nervousness and fear.
- EPA, a significant component of omega-3, has proven just as effective in fighting depression as anti-depression drugs.
5. Cure for Various Health Hazards
Studies show that consumption of omega-3 from an early age can prevent and even cure various ailments. Some of these include:
- Omega-3 can reduce ADHD symptoms in kids by increasing attention span and decreasing aggressive and hyperactive behaviour.
- A daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids decreases insulin resistance, obesity, and chronic inflammation. As a result, it prevents heart-related issues.
- Infants with higher omega-3 levels have a lesser chance of suffering from autoimmune diseases like lupus, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
Source of Omega-3
Non-Vegetarian Sources of Omega-3
Non-vegetarian foods, especially fatty fish, are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They usually contain all three nutrient components, i.e. ALA, EPA and DHA. Here are some of the richest sources of omega-3:
Per Serving is one fillet
- Mackerel – 0.59 g DHA and 0.43 g EPA per serving.
- Salmon – 1.24 g DHA and 0.59 EPA per serving.
- Oysters – 0.47g DHA and 0.18g EPA per serving
- Sardines – 0.24g DHA and 0.30g EPA per serving.
- Shrimps – 0.74g DHA and 0.44g EPA per serving.
- Trout – 0.40g DHA and 0.40g EPA per serving.
- Eggs – 0.75 mg of DHA and 350 mg of EPA per egg.
Vegetarian Sources Of Omega-3
No vegetarian food provides all three components of Omega-3 fatty acids. But that doesn’t mean that you can not meet the daily omega-3 requirement with fruits and vegetables. Moreover, if you eat two or more sources of omega-3 in a complementary manner, they prove to be good. Here are the most notable vegetarian sources:
- Algae like seaweed, nori, spirulina and chlorella are very potent sources of omega-3 and proteins.
- Chia seeds are very beneficial for heart health, and they also provide a powerful punch of the much-needed omega-3.
- Hemp seeds are a prime source of omega-3. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds can give as much as 2.605 grams of ALA.
- Flax seeds are not called superfood in vain. A single tablespoon of flaxseed can provide you with 6.703 grams of ALA.
- Walnuts are the most common source of omega-3, and rightly so. A single cup contains approximately 3.46 grams of ALA.
- Edamame or young soybean is a popular Japanese ingredient rich in antioxidants and omega-3.
- Kidney beans are a very effective way to meet your daily omega-3 requirements as they carry 0.10 grams of ALA per 100 grams.
Supplements for Omega-3
If you find it hard to meet your daily omega-3 requirements, supplements are your way out of this problem. However, you should be careful with the amount and frequency of consuming these as it is easy to go overboard. Overconsumption causes more harm than good. Some of the most prevalent omega-3 supplements are:
- Fish oil capsules are an extremely potent way to boost your daily fatty acid boost. In addition, they can have significant health benefits like lowering triglycerides and controlling blood pressure.
- Cod liver oil is another effective omega-3 source. In addition, it contains medicinal benefits like improving cardiovascular functioning.
- Krill oil capsules are for you if you wish to get your omega-3 sources from supplements. Extracted from small fish, seaweeds and algae, they are brimming with various benefits. They will leave its user with better skin, hair and bones.
Some Healthy Recipes For Your Omega-3 Requirements:
Smoked Salmon (Non-Vegetarian)
Serving Size – 4
Cooking Time – 15 minutes
- Salmon – 500 grams
- Curd – 5 Tbsp
- Kosher salt
- Pinch of turmeric
- Mixed seasoning
- Olive oil – 1 Tbsp
- Cut the salmon into thin filets.
- In a bowl, add the turmeric and seasonings to the curd.
- Add a pinch of ginger garlic paste.
- Let the filet marinate into the mix for 10 minutes.
- On a preheated pan, grill each side of the fish for 5 minutes on a low flame till the texture gets smoky.
Your grilled salmon is ready to go, and serve it with a side of rice with lemon.
Honey Garlic Shrimps (Non–Vegetarian)
Serving Size – 2
Cooking Time – 20 minutes
- 500g of raw shrimp
- 1.5 tablespoon of minced garlic
- Two tablespoons of minced ginger
- Pinch of crushed pepper.
- Three tablespoons of honey.
- Three tablespoons of soy sauce
- A quarter cup of thinly sliced green onions
- In a bowl, add all the marinade ingredients except the shrimp.
- Take half the prepared marinade and add it to the shrimp. Store the other half of the mix for later.
- Marinate the shrimp in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
- Once done, take a pan and cover it with olive oil. Add the other half of the marinade and let it sizzle.
- To the hot pan, add the marinated shrimps with all the residue. Cook until the shrimps get firm on medium flame.
- Once done, garnish with sliced onions and serve hot!
Avocado-Seaweed Sandwich (Vegetarian)
Serving size – 2
Cooking Time – 10 minutes
- Seaweed/Nori sheets – 4
- Minced avocado – half cup
- Chopped tomato – 1
- Italian seasoning mix – 0.5 tablespoon
- Kosher Salt- 0.25 tablespoon
- Olive oil – 3 teaspoon
- In a frying pan, spray a tad bit of olive oil and let it sizzle.
- Add chopped tomatoes and once the tomatoes are slightly soft, add the avocados.
- To the mixture, add the spice mix and kosher salt to taste.
- Mash the contents of the pan to a fine paste. Let it rest.
- On another frying pan, apply a little bit of olive oil and roast the noni sheets to a crisp on both sides.
- Once cooled, assemble your noni-avocado sandwich and relish its delicious flavours.
Walnut-Chia Smoothie (Vegetarian)
Serving Size – 1
Cooking Time – 5 minutes
- Milk of your choice – 250 mL
- Crushed Walnuts – 200 grams
- Overnight soaked chia seeds – 200 grams
- Granola toppings
- Cocoa powder (optional) – 0.25 tablespoon
- Add dates/jaggery in a blender and blend it to a fine powder.
- Add the milk, chia seeds and cocoa powder and blend for 30 seconds.
- Serve the drink in a glass and top with crushed walnuts and granola chunks. Your healthy and yummy smoothie is ready!
Side-effects And Precautions to Keep in Mind When Consuming Omega-3
While most of us suffer from omega-3 deficiency, it is very easy to go overboard with this micronutrient as it’s a daily requirement by the human body that is as low as 100 mg.
One must keep the following side-effects in mind and consult a doctor immediately if facing any of the following:
- Bleeding gums and nose is a common symptom of Omega-3 excess. Since omega-3 fatty acids act as an anti-clotting agent by thinning blood, it leads to frequent bleedings when consumed in excess.
- A surplus of omega-3 can cause high blood sugar levels to stimulate glucose production. A study established that people who take 8 grams of omega-3 daily showed 22% higher glucose levels. Therefore a diabetic person should only take omega-3 rich food in moderation after a doctor’s consultation.
- Omega-3 is an effective way to lower blood pressure. But it can create a problem for people who already suffer from low blood pressure. It brings both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure down, and its effect can be as strong as some medications. However, one must constantly monitor one’s fatty acids intake.
- Excess consumption of fish oil and flaxseed, a rich source of omega-3, can often lead to diarrhoea and other bowel-related issues.
- Haemorrhagic stroke is a rare but dangerous ill effect of excessive omega-3. Since omega-3 leads to thinning of blood, sometimes the pressure in the weak vessels get so high. Subsequently, they burst, leading to internal bleeding and dire consequences.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are very dense in vitamin A. A tablespoon of cod liver oil(another rich omega-3 source) can deliver 270% of the daily vitamin A needs. Such a high quantity of vitamin A could lead to vitamin poisoning. The symptoms could include dizziness and nausea if minor and liver damage if prolonged.
The Bottom Line
Omega-3 is an essential and effective nutrient that you cannot ignore if you intend to lead a healthy life. But like everything else, omega-3 is also a double-edged sword. It contains benefits like heart and brain health, improved skin and hair and better mental health. But it also comes with its fair share of disadvantages if not consumed under proper guidance.
If you are suffering from any health condition, you should always consult your physician before starting with omega-3 supplements. In addition, it is always advisable to meet your daily omega-3 requirements through natural foods rather than ‘artificial’ capsules.
One must also not fall for the ‘fad diets’ floating everywhere. Omega-3 on its own cannot meet all your health requirements, and one needs a properly balanced diet and regular exercise. So one has to be patient with omega-3 foods and supplements before seeing visible changes. But if you are judiciously consistent, then you are never looking back again!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. What are the benefits of omega-3?
A. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your skin, hair, bones and memory. It also promotes heart health and lowers triglyceride levels.
Q2. Is it good to take omega-3 every day?
A. Yes, one can take omega-3 every day as long as you don’t exceed 250 to 500mg of omega-3, which can have adverse side effects. It is always advisable to consult a doctor before starting any supplement.
Q3. Can omega-3 cause weight gain?
A. Not usually when taken in a controlled manner. But a surplus of omega-3 can cause weight gain as it is rich in fat content and can increase your metabolic weight.
Q4. Can omega-3 help weight loss?
A. Yes, omega-3 has proven effective in aiding weight loss and losing inches of your waist.
Q5. What are omega-3 side effects?
A. When taken in excess, omega-3 can cause weight gain, nausea, joint pains, heartburn and even liver damage.
Q6. What does omega-3 do for skin?
A. Omega-3 is rich in many nutrients like biotin and lycopene, improving skin texture, hydrating the skin, and preventing signs of ageing. It also helps in healing redness and rash.
Q7. Does omega-3 help hair growth?
A. Yes, omega-3 is a rich source of biotin, a very potent protein that makes hair stronger and shinier. Biotin also stimulates the growth of new hair follicles.
Q8. Is it better to take omega-3 in the day or night?
A. There is no wrong time to take omega-3. But it is advisable to take it half an hour after the main meal. It would be preferable if taken after dinner as it has more time to get absorbed by the human body.
Q9. Does omega-3 increase testosterone?
A. There is no scientific evidence that shows that omega-3 affects testosterone levels in any way.
Q10. Does omega-3 affect periods?
A. Omega-3 can make periods more bearable due to its anti-inflammatory properties that reduce menstrual cramps.
Q11. What does omega-3 does to the body?
A. Omega-3 is good for skin, hair and bones. It also promotes cardiovascular functioning, brain development in kids and helps with better memory.
Q12. What fruits and vegetables have omega-3?
A. Walnuts, flaxseeds, edamame, chia seeds, seaweeds, Brussel sprouts and kidney beans are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Q13. Which dry fruit is rich in omega-3?
A. Walnuts are the richest source of omega-3 in the ‘nuts and seeds’ family.
Q14. Is avocado rich in omega-3?
A. Yes, avocados are among the best sources of omega-3 as they are brimming with Alpha linoleic acid (ALA).
Q15. Do eggs have omega-3?
A. Eggs have a very healthy balance of ALA and DHA, making them an excellent source of omega-3.
Q16. How much omega-3 is in almonds?
A. Almonds contain approximately 0.04 grams of omega-3 per 100 grams.
Q17. What type of omega-3 is best?
A. The best form of omega-3 is rich in EPA and DPA and is most abundant in fish and other seafood.
Q18. What are the symptoms of lack of omega-3?
A. Deficiency of Omega-3 leads to poor eyesight, joint pains, impaired memory and constant dizziness.
Q19. Can omega-3 be found in vegetables?
A. Seaweeds, algae, chia seeds and hemp seeds are vegetarian omega-3 sources.