It is well known that omega-3s have a plethora of health benefits, from relieving joint pain and boosting brain performance to protecting our eyesight. However, a recent study goes so far that a low-omega-3 diet can have worse effects on the body than smoking.
The study, which took place at the University of Guelph in Canada, found that smoking can reduce life expectancy by up to four years, but low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in a person’s diet can reduce them by up to five years .
Omega-3 oils, especially docosahexaonic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are a vital component of the skin, eyes, and brain and play critical roles during pregnancy and in the early stages of a baby’s brain development. DHA alone makes up over 90 percent of the brain’s omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent of its total fat content. It is recommended that adults consume 250-500 mg DHA per day (which is roughly one serving of fatty fish per week).
Since the body cannot produce sufficient quantities of these fatty acids, we have to take them in through our food. Both DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish and seafood, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, and shellfish. For those who dislike fish, cod liver oil is also a fantastic source of DHA and EPA, with one tablespoon containing up to 1 g of DHA.
Increasing your omega-3 intake becomes more difficult if you are on a meat-free diet. Although DHA occurs naturally in some algae, most of the plant-based omega-3s are found in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This requires the body to convert it to EPA and DHA, an inefficient process that results in very little ALA being successfully converted – the rest, like other fats, is stored for energy. Omega-3 fortified eggs are a good alternative, but vegans are advised to take a dietary supplement to avoid deficiency.
Do you think you might need an omega-3 boost? Look for these omega-3 rich foods and follow our ideas below to use them.
Top 10 Omega-3 Rich Foods
- Eggs enriched with omega-3
- Flaxseed (ALA)
- Walnuts (ALA)
Try them out in one of these recipes …
Hot smoked salmon, beetroot and grains with pickled lemon crème fraîche
Diana Henry’s perfectly balanced dish requires no cooking, making it perfect for the warmer weather. Check out the recipe here.