Nutrition: Omega 3, what is it & are you getting enough?

Omega 3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that can’t be made in the body, and can only be obtained from dietary sources. As well as playing a role in normal healthy growth and development it can help to protect against disease.

 

Believe it or not we need some fat in our diet, it can be found in most of the food we eat, plants and animals use fat as an efficient way to store energy. Thus if we have too much of it we store the excess energy it provides as…., you guessed it, fat. Fat is used for maintaining healthy skin, it makes up part of the tissue surrounding nerve cells, transports vitamins and used to form hormones that control many systems within our bodies.

Some types of fat can be made by the body but others cannot. Omega 3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that can’t be made in the body, and can only be obtained from dietary sources. As well as playing a role in normal healthy growth and development it can help to protect against disease. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, can protect against heart disease, and can reduce blood pressure and clotting. As well as thinning the blood omega 3 helps to make the blood vessels more elastic and flexible. It can also play a role in reducing the risk of cancer and macular degeneration; treat skin disorders, help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and even assist in the treatment of some mental health disorders. So as you can see it’s pretty important and something we need to include in our diet, even from childhood. Including omega 3 into our diet from an early age is important as healthy habits from childhood are more sustainable into adulthood and help to reduce the risk of disease in the long term.

The best sources of omega 3 can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, snapper, barramundi, rainbow trout, calamari, scallops and tuna. It doesn’t have to be fresh, canned varieties contain just as much. Plant sources such as canola, linseed and walnuts are less readily converted to the active ingredient we require and are thus much less effective than marine sources.

If you don’t like fish don’t worry because some foods such as eggs and margarine can be fortified with omega 3 or alternatively you could buy capsules from the supermarket or pharmacy. Fish oil capsule contain more than some types white-fleshed fish but typically less than a third of that found in a serve of oily fish. Try and include a type of oily fish into your meals at least twice or more a week to reap the long term health benefits of omega 3.

 

Top tips

  1. Tinned tuna is a great healthy snack or add it to a salad
  2. Smoked salmon pasta with lemon, capers and basil is a quick dinner idea
  3. Sardines on toast might be worth a try
  4. Look for fortified eggs or margarine if you don’t like fish
  5. Ask your pharmacy about the best capsule to try