What are Omega 3 Fats??
Omega 3 Fats are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. All fats (good and bad) are categorised in classes of fatty acids. Our bodies can't make Omega 3 Fats and thus they rely on obtaining them from the food we eat. They are found within every cell membrane and help make the cells, and thus our bodies, work effectively. For example, in our eye, the retina is more responsive when the Omega 3 Fat intake is sufficient.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fats
There are many benefits of eating foods high in Omega 3 Fats. These are as follows:
- Foetus & Infancy
· It has been found that Omega 3 Fats have an important role for brain and retina development.
· Breast milk, which is high in Omega 3 Fats, nourishes the baby's brain that is rapidly developing during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and during baby's first year. Note - Formulas which contain Omega 3 Fats for bottle-feed babies are available. Examples include, S26 GoldTM, KaricareTM Gold AND Heinz GoldTM.
- Mental Health
· As our brain is made up of over 50% fats and Omega 3 Fats, an intake high in Omega 3 Fats can enhance the capability of our brain.
· Research suggests that an increase in Omega 3 Fats consumption improves one's mood.
· Omega 3 Fats may help in controlling the severity of depression.
· Statistics from a study in the US showed that people with the highest Omega 3 Fats intake had the least deaths from cancer.
· An intake rich in Omega 3 Fats delays the number of tumours and their growth rate.
· The effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatment is enhanced by the intake of Omega 3 Fats.
- Heart disease
Omega 3 Fats have been shown to help prevent the development of risk factors for heart disease. These include:
· Reducing the build up of fat in the blood vessels, so that the blood can flow freely.
· Preventing blood clotting (as it thins the blood).
· Decreasing triglycerides levels. (Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. If triglyceride levels are high, they may reduce the amount of "good" cholesterol in your blood).
· Reducing blood pressure.
· Making the artery walls more flexible.
· Helping to prevent irregular heart beats (arrhythmia).
- Inflammatory & Immune Benefits
· Omega 3 Fats may help a number of illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease and cystic fibrosis.
· In rheumatoid arthritis (a condition where the joints become inflamed, thickened and lead to pain), research has found that Omega 3 Fats help control the inflammation, thus aid in reducing pain & stiffness caused by arthritis.
· A study has found that children who ate fresh oily fish had a reduce risk of asthma compared with those who did not.
· Type 2 (Non-Insulin Dependent) Diabetes is when the insulin in the body doesn't work properly. This mainly affects people over 40. A higher Omega 3 Fat intake may help your blood sugar levels.
· As the risk of heart disease is increased for those with Type 2 Diabetes compared with the rest of population, the heart disease benefits apply (refer to the heart disease section above).
Sources of Omega 3 Fats
Omega 3 Fats are found in the foods we eat. There are two known forms. One form is fish-based, which is the "active" form as the Omega 3 Fats are taken straight up into the cells of your body. The other form of Omega 3 Fat is plant-based, which the body has to convert into the fish-based Omega 3 Fats form, before it can be used by the body.
Fish sources of Omega 3 Fats
· Mullet, Trevally, Flathead, Trout, Swordfish
· Sardines, red & pink salmon, Tuna, Mackerel
· White fish, for example, Bream, shark, John Dory, Cod & Whiting)
· Fish oil capsules are also available. The levels of Omega 3 Fats vary, thus so will the recommended dose. Note - cod liver oil is a cheap form of fish oil capsules available on the market. They are rich in Vitamin A BUT large doses are potentially dangerous.
Plant sources of Omega 3 Fats
· Linseeds (Flaxseed)
· Linseed oil
· Canola oil
· Canola margarine, for example, Gold'n Canola MargarineTM
· Soybean oil
· Enriched Soy Milk, for example, So Good PlusTM
· Omega 3 enriched eggs
· Walnut oil
· Wheat germ oil
· Some milks, for example, Dairy WiseTM & Farmers BestTM
· Some breakfast cereals, for example, Vogel's Soy & LinseedTM
· Some breads containing linseed, for example, Burgen Soy & Linseed LoafTM
Tips on achieving an Omega 3-Rich Intake
· Include fish at least three times each week.
Try having a salad and tuna sandwich or a salmon salad for lunch and freshly-grilled fish as part of your dinner over the week.
When preparing mornays, quiches, dips or pasta sauces, use canned fish packed in spring water.
· Add one tablespoon of linseed to your breakfast cereal.
· Add linseed oil or walnuts to your salad.
· Use a canola-based margarine.
· Use Omega 3-enriched eggs
NOTE: Brand Names used are not endorsed by this website.
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2. Borushek's, A. (2001) Calorie & Fat Counter. Nedlands, WA.
3. Public Health Divison, Victoria. (1998) Promoting Breastfeeding - Victorian Breastfeeding Guidelines. VIC.
4. Shrapnel, B. (2000). The Pro-Active Plan - The ultimate cholesterol - lowering diet. MELBOURNE.
1. Arthritis Foundation of Australia. (2001) Healthy Eating and Arthritis. NSW. AUST.