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Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nithin Jayan, MBBS, DNB on Dec 12, 2018
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What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) including omega-3 have drawn much attention in this era of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Fats made up of glycerol and fatty acids, are absorbed into our body through intestines and are then stored in the hypodermis (the layer of skin made up of connective tissue and fat), muscle, and liver of our body. Later, they are broken down to provide energy.

Fatty acids are of two types - saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. It is commonly known that saturated fatty acids are contained in animal oil such as beef, pork, and butter, except for fish oil; and unsaturated fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, except for coconut oil and palm oil.

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There are several types of omega 3 fatty acids, but three of them are crucial – ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

ALA is primarily found in vegetables and vegetable oils such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, salad greens, and oils such as soybean, rapeseed (canola), and flaxseed, and walnuts. The body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA.

DHA is essential for the development of the brain, nerve and eye tissue, especially in infants, so DHA is abundantly found in breast milk. Fatty fish is a rich source of DHA.

EPA, on the other hand, acts as a precursor for compounds that regulate the proper functioning of the heart and blood vessels and inhibit platelet aggregation. It is abundantly present in human milk, and seaweeds. It is also present in oily fish, occurring along with DHA.

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DHA and EPA found together only in fatty fish and algae, are considered to be more effective when they are working together rather than individually. For example, EPA and DHA together insulate the body against heat loss and prevent skin from drying.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Pregnant Women

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for various body functions such as-

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential during the growth and development of the fetus. That’s why pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding are advised to consume sufficient omega-3 foods.

Apart from the vegetable oils and fish oil, omega-3 is also found in shark liver oil, flaxseed oil. Omega-3 is also found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, leafy vegetables and soy products such as tofu.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Food Chart

Food NameOmega-3 in mg (per 200-Calorie serving)
Flaxseed oil12059
Flaxseed seeds8543
Fish oil, salmon7828
Fish, caviar, black and red, granular5388
Fish oil, sardine5341
Fish oil, cod liver4375
Fish, mackerel, salted3367
Radish seeds, sprouted, raw3358
Nuts, butternuts, dried2850
Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat2841
Nuts, walnuts2776
Basil, fresh2747
Spices, oregano, dried2732
Spices, cloves, ground2649
Fish oil, herring2630
Fish, salmon, pink, canned, without salt, solids with bone and liquid2528
Oil, vegetable, walnut2353
Broccoli, Chinese, cooked2346
Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, dry heat2194
Fish, herring, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat2185
Spinach, frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt2183
Oil, vegetable, canola [low erucic acid rapeseed oil]2067
Fish, mackerel, Pacific and jack, mixed species, cooked, dry heat2059
Spices, tarragon, dried2004
Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, cooked, moist heat1963
Spearmint, dried [mint]1959
Fish, tuna, fresh, bluefin, cooked, dry heat1809
Beef, variety meats and by-products, brain, cooked, simmered1639
Fish, bass, striped, cooked, dry heat1591
Fish, trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, dry heat1567
Oil, wheat germ1561
Oil, soybean, salad or cooking1536
Mustard, prepared, yellow1457
Cauliflower, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt1452
Mayonnaise dressing, no cholesterol1444
Salad dressing, caesar dressing, regular1431
Margarine, regular, tub, unsalted, composite, 80% fat1413
Vegetable oil, soybean lecithin1346
Vegetable oil, mustard1335
Spinach, raw1200
Beans, kidney, mature seeds, sprouted, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt1176
Peppers, sweet, red, sauteed1165
  1. Omega-3 fatty acids as treatments for mental illness: which disorder and which fatty acid? - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2071911/)

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