You’ve probably heard a lot about the many benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. But, do you actually know what they are and why they’re so beneficial?
Also known as omega-3s, these essential fatty acids collectively include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Together they play critical roles in the maintenance of metabolic function, brain health, and normal cognitive function from childhood through adulthood. Like other dietary fats, omega-3s are also necessary for proper absorption of fat-soluble micronutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Since the body doesn’t naturally produce omega-3s, they must be obtained from the diet through consumption of everyday foods, some of which include oily cold-water fish (salmon, tuna and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and high-quality soy foods.
And, interestingly enough, research studies have continuously revealed incredible health-enhancing effects of these omega-3-rich foods. While some of the research is still in infancy stages, here are eight of the most compelling benefits of omega-3s.
Help Lower Cholesterol Levels
Although the development of high cholesterol is complex and genetically influenced, you can successfully lower it naturally and quickly by incorporating omega-3s into your daily diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to elevate HDL cholesterol, which is especially beneficial because this “good” cholesterol is responsible for removing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from arterial walls. Buildup of LDL cholesterol leads to plaque formations in your arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes so less is better.
Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Excess dietary sugar tends to build up in the bloodstream setting off a chain of adverse effects that could ultimately lead to the development of diabetes. When consumed as part of a well-balanced diet, omega-3s can aid in lowering and stabilizing blood sugar (glucose) levels, which helps in both the prevention and management of diabetes. Adding these fats to carb-rich foods may also reduce the likelihood of unhealthy spikes in blood sugar by slowing the rate at which they are digested and absorbed in the body.
Lower the Risk of Various Cancers
A growing body of evidence suggests that routine consumption of omega-3s may hinder cancer development and tumor growth, especially in the colon, pancreas, prostate, and breast. In addition, when combined with chemotherapy, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to improve treatment outcomes among cancer patients by boosting the overall responsiveness of cancer cells to ionizing radiation.
Reduce High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) greatly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. While the development of high blood pressure is closely linked to sodium-intake and genetic factors, consuming omega-3s as part of a low-sodium diet may support healthy blood flow thereby reducing blood pressure. Remarkably, the blood pressure lowering benefits of these fats is most pronounced in people with diagnosed hypertension or borderline high blood pressure.
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