Are You Getting Enough Omega-3s?
Confused? You're not alone! Here's how to make sure you're getting your fill of fish oil benefits.
You've probably heard a lot about the health benefits of fish and fish oil capsules. The secret to fish oil benefits is fat — omega-3 fatty acids, that is. Coldwater fish, such as salmon, sardines, and tuna, are rich in this healthy type of fat.
The top omega-3s are two tongue-twisting — but crucial — nutrients: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are the building blocks for a number of substances with powerful anti-inflammatory and mild blood-thinning benefits. Chronic inflammation at the cellular level is the root of many common killer diseases, including heart disease. This is why fish oil is especially important if you have diabetes; heart disease is health threat number one.
Study after study has found that diets rich in omega-3 fats reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death, arrhythmias, and heart failure. They also can lift your mood, says some research, and might lessen your odds of developing Alzheimer's disease.
While few studies of fish oil benefits have focused on populations with diabetes, one published in the journal Atherosclerosis in 2009 found that fish oil supplements (2 grams daily for 12 weeks) improved blood vessel health in people with type 2 diabetes.
Omega-3s also appear to be beneficial for primary and secondary cardiovascular disease prevention, rheumatoid arthritis, and protection from cyclosporine toxicity in transplant patients. They have been investigated for possible benefits to patients with angina pectoris, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, cancer, cardiac arrhythmias, crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, dementia, depression, dysmenorrhea, eczema, nephropathy, lupus, preeclampsia, psoriasis, schizophrenia, stroke, and ulcerative colitis.
Adding Fish to Your Diet
If you want to get the health benefits of omega-3s, the best way may be to eat fish a few times a week. The amount of omega-3s provided will vary by the type of fish and whether the fish was wild or farmed but, as an example, 3 ounces of wild salmon provide around 900 mg of EPA and DHA combined. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends two fish meals a week for healthy people. The fish highest in omega-3s are oily, cold-water species, including salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, trout, and sardines.
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