You’ve probably read about Omega-3s in health magazines and online, but what exactly are these essential fats, and just how do they improve our health?
Omega-3 fatty acids are the kinds of fat our bodies can’t make, so they have to come from food. Basically, they’re a part of cell membranes, and not only affect cell receptors, but are also important for hormone production and genetic function.
There are three kinds of Omega-3s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which come mainly from fish and fish products, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the most common fatty acid, found in nuts, flax, certain leafy greens and vegetable oil.
Omega-3s have incredible heart benefits, and have been shown to decrease the possibility of heart disease and stroke. They help the heart keep its natural rhythm, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.
Because of their anti-inflammation power, athletes are big fans of Omega-3s. A study published in 2013 by researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that DHA in particular is helpful when it comes to reducing muscle inflammation. According to the study, “macrophages (a type of white blood cell) use DHA to produce “maresins,” which serve as the “switch” that turns inflammation off and switches on resolution.”
DHA is also helpful to muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of muscle cells breaking down and growing back together stronger than before (a.k.a how you increase muscle size). Another study, this one done by the Washington University School of Medicine, found that regular consumption of DHA allowed otherwise healthy men and women to develop a stronger muscle protein synthesis than those taking a sugar pill.
Omega-3s may also help fight depression, and many scientists claim that they keep symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.
Fish oil is one of the best ways to get your Omega-3s, but if you’re not a fan of the fishy aftertaste that often comes with it, try to load up on these foods as often as possible to increase your Omega-3 consumption:
- Navy beans and kidney beans
- Flax seeds
- Acai fruit
- Chia seeds
And in case you want to make a meal tonight that features Omega-3s, try a few of these:
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