Here at Dish on Fish, there are two things we love… 1) seafood and 2) the many health benefits that come with it. We talk a lot about how seafood is a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. And today we are going to unpack all of that for you and explain how the fatty acids in seafood play an integral role in a healthy diet.
What are omega-3s and how can I get them into my diet?
Our bodies do make some fats, but not so with omega-3s. And because our bodies cannot synthesize omega-3s, it is essential that we get them from the food we eat. Seafood is the premier dietary source for omega-3s DHA and EPA, which boast numerous health benefits. You may have heard that our bodies can make DHA and EPA from plant-based ALA, but our bodies do not efficiently or fully convert ALA to EPA and DHA. Therefore, it is important to eat nutrient-rich seafood regularly to consume an adequate amount of omega-3s. In fact, seafood is so important that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating seafood 2-3 times each week to meet omega-3 and other nutrient needs.
How much omega-3s do I need in my diet?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone eat a variety of seafood at least 2-3 times a week, to meet our omega-3s needs. According to the USDA, most Americans (80% to 90%) don’t hit this target, which means we have a lot of making up to do. One solid piece of advice is to take the amount of seafood you’re currently consuming on a weekly basis and double it. If you’re not consuming any seafood at all, obviously it’s time to get started. (And you came to the right place.)
What are the health benefits of omega-3s?
From before birth to older age, there are numerous reasons we need to eat seafood regularly throughout our lives. Among the abundance of health benefits that seafood provides, here are a few that are specific to the consumption of omega-3s.
- Brain and eye development in babies: About half of our brains and eyes are composed of the omega-3 DHA. Since our bodies do not make omega-3s, it is critical that pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, toddlers, and young children get adequate DHA+EPA into their diet, for optimal brain and eye development.
- Heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart in a variety of ways. For one, they can help lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease. Eating seafood regularly has been shown to help reduce the likelihood of dying from a stroke.
- Reduction of chronic inflammation: Omega-3s also help reduce chronic inflammation, which can lessen the risk of heart disease and chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
- Adult brain health: DHA+EPA omega-3s are important for the brain even before birth and then throughout the entire life span. In fact, omega-3s may help increase gray matter in the brain as we age, which is important for processing information, memories, and emotions. Plus, researchers continue to look at the positive impact omega-3s may have in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as ADHD.
- Mood boost: The omega-3 fatty acid EPA may be helpful in preventing depression and boosting mood. Omega-3s also have been shown to reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression in new moms.
- Eye health: Omega-3s may help reduce the boost eye health as we age.
- Skin-care: EPA may help promote the skin’s oil production, as well as skin hydration.