Reap the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids

Reap the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids belong to the essential fatty acids class. This means that the body cannot synthesise them from scratch and has to get them from food. One of the most well-known benefits is their effect on the blood LDL or ‘bad fat’ levels. Additionally, as components of  the cell membrane, these are necessary for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.

Rekha Sharma, a dietician, says: “Omega-3 fatty acids offer a range of benefits. Apart from helping to prevent heart disease and stroke, they can also play an important role in controlling arthritis and in boosting immunity.”

How they help?

Two of the most important essential fatty acids are ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) and LA (Linoleic Acid). ALA is converted into a  long chain of Omega-3 fatty acids inside the body while LA is converted to a long chain of Omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fatty acids help the clumping of platelets, clotting of blood within the vessels and inflammatory reactions.

Apart from ALA, there are other forms of this fatty acid.

ALA-based Omega-3 fatty acids offer all the benefits of all Omega-3s and are therefore to be preferred to other individual Omega-3s. However, some people, in whom the conversion of ALA to DHA is slow, may require supplementation with DHA.   

It is important to restore this ratio because, although LA and ALA are both essential acids, they tend to compete for enzymes. Any imbalance in the ratio or any increment in the amount of one family of fatty acids may jeopardise the metabolism of the other, affecting its inclusion into cell membranes.

Combination foods

The best food source of ALA is walnuts. EPA and DHA fatty acids are present in fish. As far as Omega-3 EPA and DHA intake is concerned, eating fish is limited to non-vegetarians and the high level of mercury in fish means that the risks of fish consumption outweighs the benefits of Omega-3. Besides, fish does not provide ALA.

“It is recommended that individuals include spinach and walnuts in their diet to reap the benefits of Omega-3 to prevent  lifestyle and chronic diseases,” says Anita Jatana, Dietician, Batra Hospital, New Delhi.

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