Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Benefits of Omega-3

The Importance of Understanding Good and Bad Fats
If you're like me, you've undoubtedly watched Fad Diets come and go over the years...
Fortunately, with the Internet, vast amounts of information on everything is now more abundant than ever before and can easily be checked out and confirmed with just a few clicks...
Anyway, from what I can tell, most people are still clinging to the old belief that all fats are really bad and unhealthy for you.
In the past dietary fat has been blamed for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and many other health problems. So naturally, most people have thought that this makes sense and have tried to cut out all fats from their diet.
The problem is that now the most current research is revealing that some types of fat can actually prevent disease and improve your health. What? How can that be?
The key to unlock this mystery is to get a general understanding of fats; and to learn which fats to exclude and include... especially, the ones to emphasize in your diet.
Understanding the Fat Family
As a whole, Fats are very complex. In order to make the subject less confusing, think of it like a family tree. At the very top are two different families of fat... the Saturated Fats, and the Unsaturated Fats.
Saturated fat (butter is one of many examples) is packed with hydrogen atoms, making it solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fat (like olive oil) contains fewer hydrogen atoms, so it is liquid at room temperature.
On the next level further down the tree, the Unsaturated Fat family has two children: Mono-unsaturated Fat and Poly-unsaturated Fat.
In the Poly-unsaturated Fat family, you'll find Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids, and as you probably know, it's the Omega-3 family that's been getting all the attention and making headlines in the nutrition world.
The three types of Omega-3
As if it weren't complicated enough, there are actually three different types of fatty acids that are all collectively referred to as omega-3′s.
First up is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid); then EPA (eicosapentaenoic), and finally DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Despite being impossible to pronounce, the fact is that they are extremely important to keeping your metabolism running smoothly and for maintaining good health.
Think of Omega-3′s as "essential" fatty acids, because they're absolutely necessary for good health and need to be included in your daily diet because the human body can NOT manufacture them on its own!
So... I'm guessing that by now you're probably asking yourself, "So what exactly are they used for, and why are they so important for my good health?"
The Incredible Health Benefits of Omega-3
Extensive studies and research by numerous major medical institutions has revealed that Omega-3 fats have an outstanding number of health benefits!
They have been proven to reduce joint pain and inflammation; as well as help to prevent serious inflammatory diseases like heart disease and arthritis!
And as if warding off inflammation weren't amazing enough, it also turns out that Omega-3's are absolutely essential for keeping the brain healthy(!) as well as having an impact upon behavior and cognitive function; and it's especially important during fetal development.
But that's not all... According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), Omega-3's may also:
• Help to prevent cancer. Numerous studies have revealed that colon, breast and prostate cancers have all been correlated with diets that suffer from low intakes of Omega-3′s.
• Improve cardiac, artery and neurological health by helping to reduce plaque buildup and blood clots in arteries that lead to the brain.
• Improve cholesterol levels by lowering triglycerides and elevating HDL (good cholesterol) levels. These benefits come primarily from DHA and EPA.
• Improve joint health and flexibility by reducing joint tenderness and stiffness associated with arthritis and osteoarthritis.
• Improve bone health by positively impacting the body's calcium levels as well as absorption rate, thereby reducing the incidence of bone loss.
• Improve mental and neurological health by helping to insulate nerve cells in the brain, allowing these nerve cells to better communicate with one another. People who are deficient in Omega-3's may suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders and ADHD.
• Improve skin health by helping to alleviate symptoms and condition related to skin disorders like acne, eczema and psoriasis.
• Improve gastro-intestinal (digestive tract) health by reducing inflammation of the bowels, helping alleviate symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
• Improve lung health by reducing inflammation in diseases like asthma.
Sources of Omega-3's
The three different types of Omega-3's are found in specific types of foods.
ALA is found in foods that are of plant origin. The richest source of ALA is flaxseed, but it's also in hempseed, canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seed oil, linseeds, walnuts, and walnut oil.
Once ingested, the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, allowing it to be more easily assimilated by the body. However, this process of conversion isn't all that efficient. That's why experts recommend including EPA and DHA supplements as part of your diet as well; thus resulting in the recent introduction of "Flaxseed oil" supplements in liquid and capsule form. As with taking any type of food supplement, always consult your health care provider before taking any new supplements.
DHA is typically found in seafood, algae, krill and in cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines and albacore tuna. Fish oil supplements and vegetarian DHA supplements (containing algae) are also available in liquid and capsule form, but again, always consult with your health care provider before taking any supplements. Only use fish oil supplements that have been certified to be free of heavy metal contaminants like mercury.
EPA is found in many of the same foods as DHA, including cold-water fish such as salmon, and sardines, as well as cod liver, herring, mackerel, and halibut. Fish oil and vegetarian algae supplements are also good sources of EPA, but again, as mentioned above, always consult with your health care provider before taking any supplements; and only use fish oil supplements that have been certified to be free of heavy metal contaminants like mercury.
Enriched Eggs are eggs that contain all three types of Omega-3 fatty acids. Now becoming more & more readily available these days, these eggs are enriched by adding flaxseed or algae to the hens' diets; thus they produce eggs that are rich in healthy fats. According to the Flax Council, Omega-3-enriched eggs provide almost half of the recommended daily level of ALA and one-quarter of the recommended daily levels of EPA and DHA ~ the same amount that can be found in 3 ounces of cold-water fish.
To get the recommended levels all types of Omega-3′s, aim for:
  • 2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseed (or 1 Tablespoon of flaxseed oil) daily.
  • 2 to 3 servings of the above-mentioned fish sources per week. In general, keep in mind that fresh fish contain more DHA and EPA than frozen fish.
Looking back over all this information on Omega-3′s might seem overwhelming at first. But once you understand the types and "mega" health benefits that come with them, you'll definitely be on your way to improving your health.By
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