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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Functions, Top Sources, and Dietary Tips for Meeting Daily Requirement.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that play an important role in various bodily functions, including brain function, inflammation, and heart health.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).

Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are the best dietary sources of EPA and DHA, which are the biologically active long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. It's recommended to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week.

Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and Brussels sprouts, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. However, the conversion rate is relatively low.

Almonds, avocados, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds contain some omega-3 fatty acids, but they are not considered a significant source of these nutrients. Consuming these foods can still provide other important nutrients and contribute to a healthy diet.

Cod liver oil, shrimp, tuna, hemp seeds, soybeans and Brussels sprouts are additional foods that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Overall, a balanced and varied diet that includes a mix of fatty fish, plant-based sources of omega-3s, and other nutritious foods can help provide adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health

Functions of omega-3 fatty acids in the human body:

Brain function: Omega-3s are important for brain function and development, and are essential for normal cognitive function.

Eye health: Omega-3s play a role in maintaining healthy vision and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Heart health: Omega-3s can help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation, lowering triglycerides, and improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Immune function: Omega-3s can help support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Joint health: Omega-3s may help reduce inflammation and pain in the joints, making them helpful for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Skin health: Omega-3s are important for maintaining healthy skin, reducing inflammation, and improving hydration.

Pregnancy and infant development: Omega-3s are important for the development of the fetus and infant brain, and may help reduce the risk of preterm labor and postpartum depression. It is advisable to take atleast 650 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and atleast 300 mg of DHA during pregnancy.

Weight management: Omega-3s may help regulate appetite and reduce the risk of obesity by increasing feelings of fullness and reducing inflammation.

Mental health: Omega-3s have been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Athletic performance: Omega-3s may help improve athletic performance by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and increasing endurance

Below is the detailed list of omega-3 fatty acids rich foods with their omega 3 content.

Fatty fish:

Salmon: 1,500-2,300 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) serving

Mackerel: 4,107 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 grams serving

Sardines: 1,480 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 grams serving

Herring: 1800 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 grams of cooked fish.

Tuna: 200 mg of DHA per 100 grams serving.

Plant-based sources of omega-3s:

Flaxseeds: 2.28 grams of ALA per 10 grams serving

Chia seeds: 1.78 grams of ALA per 10 grams serving.

Canola oil: 913 mg of ALA per 10 gms.

Walnuts: 0.91 grams of ALA per 10 grams serving

Brussels sprouts: 0.14 grams of ALA per 100 grams serving

Soya beans: 1 cup of cooked soya beans contains 1 gm of ALA.

Firm tofu: 582 mg ALA per 100 gms.

Spinach: 1 cup cooked spinach contains 0.16 gms of ALA.

Other sources of omega-3s:

Cod liver oil: up to 1,500 mg of EPA and DHA per teaspoon (5 ml) serving

Shrimp: 300 mg of DHA per 100 grams serving.

Hemp seeds: 1.1 grams of ALA per 28 grams serving

Poppy seeds: 0.14 grams of ALA per 28 grams serving

Sesame seeds: 0.05 grams of ALA per 28 grams serving

Omega-3 fortified eggs: 300 mg per 1 large egg. 

It's important to note that the omega-3 content of some of these foods can vary depending on various factors such as the type of fish, the diet of the animal, and the processing of the food. Also, while some of these foods provide significant amounts of omega-3s, it's important to consume a variety of foods to ensure a well-rounded and balanced diet.

Side effects of excessive consumption of omega-3 fatty acids

  • Excessive consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of bleeding, especially in individuals taking blood-thinning medications or with bleeding disorders.

  • High doses of omega-3s can cause gastrointestinal issues like nausea, diarrhea, and bloating, as well as a fishy aftertaste and breath.

  • Omega-3s may interact with certain medications, including blood-thinning medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and some antidepressants.

  • Some fish oil supplements contain high levels of vitamin A and D, which can be toxic in excessive amounts.

  • High doses of omega-3s may increase LDL cholesterol levels, suppress the immune system, and increase the risk of prostate cancer in men.

  • Most people can safely consume moderate amounts of omega-3s from food or supplements without experiencing any adverse effects.

  • However, it's always best to consult with a Registered dietitian and doctor before starting omega- 3 supplements, to decide the best dosage based on your food intake and eating habits.

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