Omega-3 is among the most popular dietary supplements in the US, with millions of people taking some form of this vital nutrient. However, many people don’t know what it is, just that it’s good for them. They’re right – it’s extremely good for you, boasting an impressive range of proven health benefits. One of the most impressive benefits is the positive impact it can have on the functionality of your brain. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly omega-3 is and how it can help you live a long, happy, healthy life.
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that you should consider adding to your diet to stay healthy. Because your body cannot produce omega-3s on its own, it must come from your diet. Foods that are rich in omega-3s include fatty fish, fish oils, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts. Another especially good source of omega-3s is green-lipped mussel oil. Supplements such as green-lipped-mussel oil are particularly important for people who have trouble eating enough omega-3-rich foods in their regular diets.
Types of Omega-3
There are three main types of omega-3s:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is the omega-3 most commonly found in the average diet. The human body uses this substance primarily for energy, but it can also convert it into other, biologically active forms, including EPA and DHA.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). This form of omega-3 is found mostly in animal products, such as fatty fish. However, some microalgae contain EPA. EPA serves several purposes in your body and can also be converted partially into DHA.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is the most essential omega-3 that you need. This fatty acid is a key structural part of many body parts, such as the retina of your eyes and your brain. It comes mainly from animal products, such as fatty fish, eggs, and dairy.
- ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid). ETA is a special type of omega-3 not found in many of the most common sources of omega-3s, but is found in the green-lipped mussel. This rare type of omega-3 offers unique anti-inflammatory benefits and pain relief – without any negative side effects.
Understanding the Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t the only ones you need for optimal health. Omega-6s also play important roles in your body. Both types of fatty acids help produce signaling molecules, known as eicosanoids. These molecules help in various ways, with inflammation and blood clotting. However, omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, and researchers theorize that consuming too much omega-6 may negate the beneficial effects of omega-3.
Many people in the US have a comparatively high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between the two for the greatest benefit. While there is no known evidence that omega-6 is harmful, it remains true that getting plenty of omega-3 is extremely important for good health.
What Do Omega-3s Do?
Omega-3s are vital for your retinas and brain. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, in particular, should be careful to get enough DHA because it has an impact on her baby’s intelligence and health. Omega-3 also provides powerful health effects for adults: many experts believe that omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against a wide range of diseases, such as various inflammatory diseases, depression, ADHD, and more. If you don’t eat fatty fish or other foods containing omega-3s, then you should know that supplements such as green lipped mussel oil are both affordable and effective.
How Omega-3s Work to Improve Brain Capabilities
Your brain weighs a little over three pounds and is 60% fat, making it one of your fattiest organs. It’s also one of the most important, playing a role in every other major body system. While most people focus on minimizing their fat intake, it’s important to make the distinction between “bad” fats and “good” fats. Omega-3s are a healthy type of fat that you don’t want to cut back on, particularly EPA and DHA. These two nutrients are among the few found in the brain. These omega-3s help regulate your brain’s structure and performance, especially as you age. The pathways that underlie their uptake are key to understanding how they affect brain development.
DHA already exists within the brain, and in much higher concentrations than other areas, such as plasma or the liver. About 30% of the “gray matter” – where most of the neuronal cells are contained – is made up of DHA. The brain probably maintains these high levels via uptake of DHE from lipids in the blood.
EPA levels in the brain are lower than those of DHA. These lower levels may be the result of EPA’s rapid oxidation as it enters the brain. Since DHA and EPA enter the brain at similar rates, it may also be that the uptake of EPA is affected by differential efficiencies in the metabolism and the way that EPA is incorporated into the blood and other tissues.
Brain Aging and Omega-3s
Millions of Americans live with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with the majority of these being women. Although the rate of progression varies widely from person to person, increasing age is the biggest risk factor. As you age, your brain experiences several widespread changes, including more oxidative stress, a reduction in overall volume, and changes in lipid composition.
DHA and EPA may have a significant positive impact on your brain as it ages. It appears that omega-3s may play a role in lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and reducing neuroinflammation and damage from free radicals. They may also help your brain maintain a larger volume over time – an important detail because brain volume and cognitive function appear to be directly related.
Evidence is mounting that you may be able to lower your risk of dementia and age-related cognitive decline by upping your intake of omega-3s. The good news is that if you don’t consume enough omega-3, you can make changes. You can help maximize your odds of living a long, healthy life with optimal brain function by increasing your intake of omega-3s from sources such as fish and GLMO supplements.
Omega-3s and Depression
Memory loss is not the only area in which omega-3s improve brain function. Consuming enough of these important fatty acids may also benefit your mental health. As depression and other mental health disorders grow, so do efforts to find effective treatments. Many people are on the lookout for natural, non-pharmaceutical treatments for these types of problems as well.
It does appear that omega-3s may play a role in aiding people with depression, especially when combined with other treatments, such as talk therapy and antidepressants. That may be because omega-3s affect serotonin and serotonin receptors in the brain. Or, it may be because of the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s. More research is needed, but one thing is for sure: omega-3 supplements, such as green-lipped mussel, may help promote positive brain function and prevent or delay issues such as dementia and depression.
Best Natural Ways to Boost Omega-3s
There are two main ways to increase your omega-3 intake: food and supplements. When it comes to food, there are several good sources of omega-3s that you should add to your diet. Fatty fish is one; you can also choose plant-based sources, such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds that are high in these fatty acids.
Some of the best food sources include:
- Mackerel. Mackerel is a small, fatty fish that you can eat smoked; many people enjoy it for breakfast. Along with omega-3s, it is also high in B vitamins and selenium.
- Salmon. This is one of the most nutritious and most popular types of fish on the market. It also contains plenty of protein, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and selenium.
- Oysters. You can often find oysters on restaurant menus as appetizers or snacks. Unlike most seafood omega-3 sources, oysters contain all three major classes of omega-3s: ALA, EPA, and DHA.
- Seabass. This popular Japanese fish also offers a powerful dose of protein and selenium.
- Shrimp. Around the globe, people enjoy shrimp as an appetizer or a meal component. Shrimp is a tasty and versatile food that’s also rich in protein and potassium.
- Trout. Rainbow trout are one of the healthiest and most popular types of fish you can buy. In addition to omega-3s, trout also boasts lots of protein, vitamin D, and potassium.
If you prefer vegetarian or vegan sources, you can choose from:
- Algae and seaweed. Seaweed, chlorella, nori, and spirulina are different types of algae that people eat for their many health benefits. Use nori to wrap your sushi or snack on salty, crispy seaweed chips.
- Chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3s, protein, and fiber. Use them in smoothies, salads, granola… the sky’s the limit.
- Hemp seeds. Hemp seeds provide a healthy dose of ALA along with many other nutrients, including protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
- Walnuts. Walnuts are an important source of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Add walnuts to most anything, from granola and trail mix to yogurt and cooked dishes.
- Kidney beans. Kidney beans are a rich source of omega-3s, whether you eat them alone, as a side dish, or as an ingredient in curry, stew, or rice and beans.
If you cannot meet your daily requirement of omega-3 or have unusually high levels of inflammation or joint pain, then you can choose from several types of omega-3 supplements. Find what you need with:
- Fish oil. Fish oil is the most popular omega-3 supplement and provides an exceptionally high dose of EPA and DHA.
- GLMO. Green-lipped mussel oil is a superior source of omega-3 fatty acids because it’s all-natural, effective, clean, and more effective than fish oil. It also contains EPA, DHA, OTA and the all powerful ETA.
- Algae oil. If you’re adhering to a vegan diet, you can use algae oil as a source of omega-3s. Be sure to speak with your doctor about the correct dosage.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which you can get more omega-3s into your diet. Be sure to contact us with any questions – we’re always happy to help.
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