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Chewing the Right Fat: Why omega-3 fats are good for your health

Fishing for a good source of omega-3? Try grilled salmon steaks
We all know that consuming too much fat is bad for our health, but did you know that an essentially fatty acid called omega 3 is actually good for your body and wellbeing?

Omega-3 fat is a form of polyunsaturated fat that helps to prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure, enhance mental health, and reduce the inflammation of arthritis, amongst other things.

Seems like this is one fat you should do your best not to avoid. So are you getting enough of it? Read on to find out.

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What is an omega-3 fatty acid?

Although it may sound like the name of a Star Wars battleship, “The Omega-3” is actually a fat (or fatty acid) that our body needs to function efficiently.

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA, EPA and ALA. Studies tend to show health benefits from the consumption of the DHA and EPA forms of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily, cold-water fish such as Atlantic salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring, canned salmon and tuna, and in fish-oil supplements.

The beneficial effects of ALA are not as well documented. ALA  is contained in some nuts, pumpkin seeds and certain vegetable oils such as canola, flaxseed and olive oil. Your body also converts ALA into DHA and EPA.

Good for the body and the soul

Omega-3 fat is good news, especially when it comes to heart health. Over the past decade, several major studies (including the U.S. Physicians' Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study) have shown that consumption of omega-3 significantly improves heart health and reduces the risk of heart complications.

In the Physicians' Study, men with the lowest levels of omega-3 in the blood were 81 percent more likely to suffer death from sudden heart failure, than those with the highest levels in their blood.

Omega-3 fats help to keep your heart healthy by:
  • Lowering triglyceride levels
  • Reducing hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Reducing the risk of coronary heart disease
Omega-3s also benefit the rest of your body. For example, they can lessen the severity of inflammatory disorders such as arthritis or painful menstrual periods and may even help those with osteoporosis.

Omega-3s have also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health. Several studies in recent years have observed a higher incidence of depression among people who consume little or no omega-3 fats.

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