Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats crucial to our health. Not only have they been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, but they may help with conditions like lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. But what exactly are these “good-for-you fats,” and how can you get more of them in your diet?
What Are Omega-3s?
There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is an essential fatty acid that your body doesn’t make on its own, so you have to get it from your diet. Although it is possible for your body to convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, it can only do so in limited amounts. Eating EPA- and DHA-rich foods is a great way to increase levels of these omega-3 fatty acids in your body.
Omega-3s also help give your body energy and have many functions in your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system (the network of hormone-producing glands).
Getting More Omega-3s in Your Diet
To make sure you’re getting adequate omega-3 fats, aim to include fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel in your weekly diet, which will provide DHA and EPA. In addition, the average daily amount of plant-sourced omega-3s (ALA) recommended is 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women, which can come from things like flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, or soybean oil.
Fresh or canned fish is a great option, especially cold-water fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Stock up on fortified foods like eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages, which contain omega-3 fats (just check the labels and watch out for added sugar in juices).
While eating oily fish is one of the best methods to meet your requirement, there are plenty of other foods containing omega-3s you can enjoy if you are vegan, are vegetarian, or just don’t like the taste of fish. Try plant oils (think: flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils), nuts, and seeds (think: flax, chia, walnuts). Sprinkle chia seeds in your overnight oats, mix a variety of nuts into your salads, or add both to a soup or stir-fry.
Health Benefits of Omega-3s
Omega-3s are considered “good fats” because of all their benefits. They might be involved with cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, which include cancer prevention, cognitive function, dry eye disease, and more.
Another benefit of consuming a diet packed with omega-3s? Some research has shown an association between omega-3 fats and gum health; even dietary supplementation with modest levels of fish oil (loaded with omega-3s) could potentially be a cost-effective adjunctive therapy to managing periodontal disease.
On top of an omega-3-fat-rich diet, brushing your teeth twice a day with a stannous fluoride toothpaste like Parodontax Extra Fresh can also keep your gums healthy and teeth strong. The toothpaste helps remove plaque bacteria that can lead to bleeding gums — a sign of gingivitis and gum disease — and complements your healthy lifestyle.