The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
How Much You Need, Where to Find Them and Why They are Important
Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients obtained from food or supplements that are critical to the structure of the walls of our cells, making them essential for all of our body processes. They are also known to be powerful anti-inflammatories. The two key omega 3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are primarily found in fish. A third, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in plant sources like chia, flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, soybeans, navy beans, avocados and Brussels sprouts.
How Much do you Need?
Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, is defined as the average daily level of nutrient intake that will meet the nutrition requirements of most healthy people, as determined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. While most vitamins and minerals have set RDA values, there are no specific guidelines for EPA or DHA. However, ALA requirements range from 1.1 grams per day for women to 1.6 grams per day for men. Even children should consume omega-3s, with levels varying based on age and sex. For perspective, one ounce of walnuts – about seven whole nuts – provides 2.5 grams of ALA, while half an avocado contains about .5 grams of ALA.
While there is no set recommended daily dosage for EPA or DHA, nutritionists recommend between 250 and 500 mg of the two combined. However, up to 3,000 mg per day is considered safe. And while your body can turn ALA into EPA and DHA, you likely won’t make enough to ensure proper levels unless you are eating at least two eight-ounce portions of cold water, fatty, oily fish per week; think herring, tuna, sardines and mackerel. If not, consider a supplement, like Kore Fish Oil, which contains 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA from anchovy, mackerel and sardine per one-gram capsule.
How to Get Kids to Consume More Omega-3s
Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to get children to eat any kind of seafood, so you have to get creative with preparation in order to sneak more omega-3s into their diets. Try baking salmon with teriyaki or barbecue sauce, making salmon burgers and allowing kids to choose their toppings, slicing fish filets into “sticks” and serving them coated in crispy breadcrumbs with different dipping sauces, or mixing canned tuna or salmon into a pasta salad. If the fish is just a no-go, try mixing a teaspoon of flaxseed oil into a fruit smoothie or stirring it into peanut butter before spreading on toast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The Myriad Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Omega-3s support healthy joint tissue and lubrication. They may help reduce morning stiffness, swelling and tenderness in your joints, and may help to increase blood flow during exercises, which can potentially reduce joint pain and post-workout soreness.
- Omega-3s may support heart health by helping to optimize cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels.
- Omega-3s can support weight loss by optimizing metabolism, insulin sensitivity and cortisol levels.
- Omega-3s support healthy skin by encouraging the skin to hold water, making it more moisturized, softer and plumper, and may also protect against damage caused by UV light, including sunburn.
- Omega-3s may support healthy bone density
- Omega-3s support healthy brain development and optimal brain function in both children and older adults.
- Optimal omega-3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy may support healthy fetal brain development.