If you’ve been following along on the blog, you know we like to remind our readers that seafood is an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. But you might ask, what does that mean for my health? If you’re wondering how these fatty acids play into a healthy diet, then this blog post is for you.
What are omega-3s, and where do I find them?
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids. Because our bodies cannot make omega-3s, it is essential that we get these healthy fatty acids from our food. Seafood is the premier dietary source of omega-3s, particularly DHA and EPA. Most seafood contains omega-3s, although the levels vary depending on the species. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, lake trout, tuna, herring and mackerel tend to provide the highest amounts of omega-3s.
How much do I need in my diet?
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans eat a variety of seafood at least 2-3 times each week to meet omega-3 and other nutrient needs. According to USDA, most (80-90%) of Americans don’t meet seafood recommendations, which means most of us need to at least double the amount of seafood we eat each week.
What are the health benefits of omega-3s?
There are so many reasons why we need to eat more seafood throughout our entire lives. Here are just a few of the health benefits of omega-3s from seafood.
- Brain and eye development in babies: About half of our brains and eyes are comprised of the omega-3 DHA. Since our bodies do not make omega-3s, it is critical that pregnant women, breastfeeding moms and young children get DHA in their diet for optimal brain and eye development
- Heart health: Omega-3s benefit the heart in a variety of ways. They can help lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease.
- 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: Omega-3s are important for the brain before birth and throughout the rest of your lifespan. 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 (eicosapentaenoic acid) may be helpful in preventing depression and boosting mood. Omega-3s have also been shown to reduce the likelihood of depression, particularly postpartum depression in new moms.
- Eye health: Omega-3s may help reduce the risk of developing visual problems (such as macular degeneration) as we age.
- Skin care: EPA may help promote the skin’s oil production, as well as skin hydration.