omega-3 fatty acidsThe first six nutrients your body needs are water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. There is a seventh that can be added to the list and it is Omega-3- fatty acids. Omega-3, or n-3, fatty acids, are a family of polyunsaturated fats that you must get from your diet. They’re termed essential fatty acids, as they’re needed for health, but your body cannot produce them as it can other fats.

The 3 types of Omega-3’s are EPA, DHA, and ALA

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – EPA is a 20-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It’s primarily found in fatty fish, seafood, and fish oil. This fatty acid has many essential functions. Most importantly, it’s used to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids. These can reduce inflammation. EPA has been shown to be particularly effective against certain mental conditions, especially depression.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – DHA is a 22-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It is primarily found in fatty fish, seafood, fish oils, and algae. The main role of DHA is to serve as a structural component in cell membranes, particularly in nerve cells in your brain and eyes. It makes up about 40% of polyunsaturated fats in your brain. DHA is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s absolutely crucial for the development of the nervous system. Breast milk may contain significant amounts of DHA, depending on the mother’s intake.

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – ALA is an 18-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It’s the most common dietary omega-3 fatty acid, found in certain high-fat plant foods, especially flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Aside from being used for energy, ALA doesn’t have many biological functions. Nevertheless, it’s categorized as an essential fatty acid. This is because your body can convert it into EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids with various essential, biological functions. However, this process is highly inefficient in humans. According to one estimate, only about 5% of ALA gets converted into EPA, and as little as 0.5% into DHA . For this reason, ALA should never be relied on as your sole omega-3 source. Most of the ALA you eat will simply be used for energy.

Taking Omega-3’s can help with conditions such as blood triglycerides, cancer, fatty liver, depression/anxiety, inflammation pain, ADHD, asthma, baby development, dementia. You can take supplements or eat foods like salmon,cod liver oil, sardines, anchovies, flax seed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

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