Omega-3's and the Wow Factor

Omega-3 fatty acids might as well be wearing a cape with a big "S" shining on it. Omega-3's are polyunsaturated long-chained fatty acids that are doing some amazing things for our health. They play an important role in making the cells in our nerves and brain healthier. Omega-3's help to reduce triglyceride levels in the blood which lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease, help to reduce clotting, inflammation, and thickening of the arteries. More research is needed, but scientists are looking into finding evidence to support the observations that it prevents and/or treats some types of cancer growth, bipolar disorder, depression, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, asthma, and many other disorders and diseases. Wow, what a list of possibilities! It will be interesting to see what the research comes up with.

Omega-3's are essential fatty acids, which means our body can't make them, so we have to get them from the food we eat. Studies have shown that these are definitely better absorbed from food than supplements.

Eicosapentoenoic acid (EPA) and
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come from fish. These are the forms our body likes our
omega-3's to be served in! Find them in:
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Lake Trout
Plant sources provide alpha-linolenic acid (more Greek!) which is a type of omega-3
our body will convert to EPA and DHA, though it's not a very efficient process. Try:
  • Flaxseed, flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts, walnut oil
John, a new reader, wants to know what heat does to omega-3's. Very insightful question!
Polyunsaturated oils are very susceptible to heat damage, and omega-3's are especially at risk.
When heated, these oils will actually become oxidized (they would rust if they were a metal
wagon, turn brown if they were a cut apple.) When this happens, the flavor and smell go "off"
and the oil will become rancid. This produces free radicals (see previous blog on Antioxidants),
setting off a dangerous chain reaction. If we consume too many of these, our risk for developing cancer may increase and we'll have less protection against heart disease. Not good. Keep in mind that walnut oil and flaxseed oil should never be heated and always stored in the refrigerator in dark containers. Heat and light will damage these sensitive oils. Studies have shown that using moderate heat while cooking omega-3 fish is just fine, as less than 0.1% of
the fatty acid is actually damaged, so almost all of the nutritional value remains. Cooking at
350 degrees until done would be perfect. On the other hand, the extremely high heat of
barbecue grilling and deep fat frying has been shown to be bad news for omega-3's. This level
of intense heat damages the fatty acid structure,creates free radicals, and lessens nutritional
value...not good. Remember: fried = evil!

Recommended for great omega-3 levels:
  • Eat fatty fish at least twice a week (never fried!)
  • Add walnuts, ground flaxseed to your daily healthy eating plan.

Some people choose fish oil supplements, which can be useful in some situations. Just

remember that food sources of omega-3's are absorbed better, and taking too many of these
supplements can be dangerous. Check with your doctor first, especially if you are taking any
medications, as fish oil supplements can interact or interfere with some medications.

So, what did we learn? Omega-3 fatty acids really do deserve the Wow Factor!!

Say "YES" to the "3's!"