What are Omega 3s, and should they be part of my diet?
May 29, 2023
Are you getting enough Omega 3s in your diet? Most seafood lovers will have heard this term before, but might not know why Omega 3s are important to their health. It’s actually pretty simple! Let’s take a look at what Omega 3s are, why you need them, and how to ensure you’re getting enough.
What are Omega 3s?
Omega 3s are a group of three unsaturated fatty acids. Two of these acids are found in oily fish (EPA and DHA) and the third is found in plants (ALA). Omega 3s are considered essential to human growth, but the body can’t make them by itself so it needs us to help increase Omega 3 levels via the foods we eat. Our bodies also need all three fatty acids to reap the health benefits, which is why just eating the plant sources, for instance, isn’t sufficient; we need the marine sources too.
Seafood also contains Omega 6 fatty acids. This is another essential group that is thought to reduce cholesterol and help control blood sugar. Like Omega 3, we can’t produce it ourselves so we need to get it through the food we eat.
What does Omega 3 do?
Omega 3 fatty acids offer many health benefits. Studies suggest that they can help reduce blood pressure and inflammation (which you see in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis), as well as helping to keep your heart healthy. So eating enough Omega 3s can help support your health and lifestyle, but how much Omega-3 per day should you be eating?
For those Omega 3s found in fish, the European Food Safety Authority recommends an intake of 250mg per day. Their studies show that this amount is sufficient to “decrease the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) and sudden cardiac death” in healthy people.** This is the equivalent of 1-2 portions per week of oily fish, or 250mg per day of Omega 3 supplements.
However, there are benefits to choosing fish over fish oil supplements (or their vegan Omega 3 equivalent). This is because when you enjoy a fish dish you also benefit from the vitamins, minerals and protein found within that fish, whether it’s from responsibly farmed or wild sources. So, seafood lovers – tuck in!
For those Omega 3s found in plants, a dose of 1.1g per day for women is recommended and 1.6g for men. You can find them in flaxseed, soy or canola oils, in nuts and seeds, and in green leafy vegetables. So eating a varied diet gives you the best chance of enjoying Omega 3 benefits.
Small changes can help you feel the benefits of Omega 3
🐟 Get to know your oily fish! The fish that provide the best sources of Omega 3 are salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, pilchards, sardines and sprats.*** If you prefer shellfish, Omega 3s can be found in mussels, oysters, squid and crab. But bear in mind that Omega 3s in shellfish occur in lower quantities than in oily fish, so you would need to factor in eating it more frequently to get the same benefits.
🐟 Make fish part of your meal plan! Plan to eat at least two fish dishes per week. Fish is really versatile, so experiment with different ways to cook your favourite oily fish, or mix up your diet with lots of oily fishes to benefit from a wide range of nutrients.
For fin-tastic inspiration, check out our recipe finder here. We love salmon niçoise for a quick and tasty lunch option and pecan crusted trout with sweet potatoes and string beans for date night. Both are really easy to prepare so are great options when you’re busy.
🐟 Make some easy diet swaps! Try stocking your freezer with frozen fish, so it’s easy to make quick and healthy meals on busy days. A salmon fillet bakes in under 30 minutes and just needs a squeeze of lemon and a few herbs to be a delicious mid-week dinner. And if you’re nervous of veering away from family favourites, try swapping out chicken for salmon in your curries or pasta dishes.
Getting enough Omega 3s in your diet isn’t as tricky as you might think, and your body will thank you!
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