Where Do the “Good Fats” Come From?
The research continues to pile up regarding the positive benefits of a class of essential fats known collectively as Omega-3 fatty acids. First, we will review the known and suspected benefits, then a listing of food sources will be discussed.
Omega-3s produce an anti-inflammatory effect, including in our joints and blood vessels. This anti-inflammatory effect may help with symptoms due to asthma. This class of fats is believed to help with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and may help reduce serum triglyceride levels and hypertension (blood pressure). Prenatal neurological and visual development is thought to be enhanced with dietary omega-3. These essential fats are also an important transport mechanism for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are responsible for the health of the skin and hair, among other things. Omega-3 intake is associated with the delay and possibly prevention of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. There appears to be a lower incidence of depression in cultures whose diet is rich in omega-3, but more research is needed.
I have my own theory on this depression thing. The lower occurrence of depression by people who eat a lot of fish may be related to the fact that most people who live near the ocean eat more fish. Most oceans have beaches. People who spend more time on a beach are generally less depressed. Geesh, how many research studies do we really need for this one?!?
There are two basic sources of omega-3, plant sources and marine sources (not the military branch, but from various seafood sources). Now bear with me for a brief biochemistry lesson so I don’t have to use cheap pop culture references. The plant source is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the marine sources are termed eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Any question as to why they are referred to as ALA, EPA, and DHA? American Idol and Dancing with the Stars will agree that the marine sources EPA and DHA appear to convey more health benefits than ALA. Rihanna may like her some flax and nuts (say this fast, it’s kinda funny!), but she better eat her some mussels and salmon if she knows what’s good for her.
The plant sources of omega-3 (ALA) include:
1) Flax and flax seed oil
3) Almonds and almond butter
4) Chia seeds
5) Kiwi seeds (also confusingly called gooseberry seeds)
6) Canola oil (formerly called rapeseed oil, yuk!)
7) Hemp (also known as cannabis, I shall say nothing further)
The marine sources of omega-3 (EPA & DHA) include:
3) Sardines (I know, when will we get to one I will eat?)
6) Lake Trout
7) Sturgeon (not a doctor!)
These are but a few of the more common sources of omega-3s. The supplemental form may be considered, but should be discussed with a physician, dietician, or nutritionist to determine quantity and possible drug interaction. Try to eat 3-4 servings per week of these sources, concentrating on the marine sources whenever possible, to reap the benefits of this healthful fat.