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Omega-3s: Why You Need Them and How to Get Them

July 14, 2020
These days, omega-3s are a big nutritional buzzword. We’re told to consume them on a regular basis and even supplement with fish oil to get more of them.

However, many of us don’t know what they are, much less how many omega-3s we need in a day. This can make it feel like we’re taking a road trip with no map. We simply don’t know where to start getting omega-3s and how many to shoot for.

In short, omega-3s are good fats. So when it comes to cutting fat out of your diet, you don’t want to give omega-3s the boot. 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the body can make most fats on its own with a little help from other fats and some raw materials. But it can’t make omega-3s. As a result, we have to consume them through diet and/or get them from supplements. That said, diet is the best way to get them. 

In the broad spectrum of fats, omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats. And there are three types of them. The first two types of omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These health warriors are found in fish, which is why some people called them marine omega-3s. 

The third type of omega-3 is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These fatty acids come from plants, nuts and seeds. For example, walnuts, flaxseeds, flax oil and vegetables are rich in ALA. However, ALA can be found in vegetables and even animal fats.  

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3s are important because they're involved in so many bodily functions. For instance, they are key to heart health because they help to reduce inflammation and keep arteries from hardening. They also help the brain function properly and help it to grow and develop in the way it should. Further, they’ve even been shown to be helpful in preventing cancer and arthritis. They’re an important part of health during pregnancy because research links a lack of omega-3s with vision and nerve problems in infants.