Omega-3 – polyunsaturated fatty acids


Omega 3, fatty acids, healthy fats… There are so many expressions for the same thing in the media and our everyday talk. What is it exactly about and why is the topic of fatty acids important to our health?

What are omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 is a family of essential fatty acids that play an important role in the body and have numerous benefits for health. They cannot be produced by the body itself so we need to consume them through food. The three most important kinds are ALA (alfa-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is mostly present in plants, and DHA and EPA can be found in the foodstuffs of animal origin and algae. 

Why are omega-3 fatty acids important

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the health of the brain and the entire body and that is why they are one of the most studied nutrients. Decades of intense research have proven that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for life because, on the one hand, they protect us from illnesses, and, on the other hand, help the body recover. They play a key role in:

– keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy (EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important since it has been proven that they contribute to the normal functioning of the heart),

– brain function, 

– healthy eyesight,

– regulation of a healthy cholesterol level in the blood, 

– healthy psychomotor development of babies and children. 

EPA and DHA are extremely important omega-3 fatty acids since it has been proven that they contribute to the normal functioning of the heart. These fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and a lowering of the triglycerides level. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect so their importance in the prevention of atherosclerosis is often emphasized. Clinical studies have shown that they also help in the prevention of:

– a brain stroke,

– many cardiovascular diseases,

– cardiac dysrhythmia,

– blood clots,

– some types of cancer.

Where do omega-3 fatty acids come from?

EPA and DHA acids are produced in marine phytoplankton which is the food for fish and some sea mammals. These fatty acids are not found in land animals unless they are fed food rich in fish oil or fish flour during their breeding. In that case, their meat or eggs contain smaller quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA, on the other hand, can be found in land plants, mostly cereals, fruit, and vegetables.

In which foodstuffs can omega-3 fatty acids be found?

For a beneficial effect, it is necessary to ingest at least 250 mg of EPA and DHA per day which can be achieved by moderate consumption of fish, especially blue fish, such as codfish, herrings, sardines, anchovies, some kinds of salmon, mackerel, swordfish, and tuna. When we talk about omega-3 fatty acids, we primarily talk about fish (especially the fatty kinds), fish oil, crabs, shells, and sea snails. 

However, there are other foodstuffs rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as:

– canola oil – the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids among all oils,

– flax oil and seeds – contains both ALA and DHA,

– walnuts,

– edamame (a special kind of soy that is also rich in proteins and fiber), and

– chia seeds.

A bit of omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in eggs, milk, or bread but in a very small amount. 

What about food supplements?

A good and, above all, safe source of omega-3 fatty acids are also different food supplements in which the relationship between DHA and EPK is precisely controlled. Also, they are not contaminated with heavy metals which is often the case with fish. It is an especially big advantage for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their little ones. When we ingest more unsaturated fatty acids, it is important to know that we are also reaching for more antioxidants, for example, vitamin E. 

Would you like to find out what other vitamins and minerals are important for the health of the digestive system and the entire body? Read our article on that topic and find out how Donat helps us to stay healthy!

Food supplements are especially important for vegetarians

Vegetarians in general have fewer omega-3 fatty acids in their blood because they only get ALA acid through food which can be found in plant sources, such as flaxseed oil. This is why it is extremely important for them to compensate for the deficit with the right supplements and ingest more omega-6 fatty acids.

asked questions

1. What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by our body itself so they need to be consumed through food.

2. Why are omega-3 fatty acids so important?

Omega-3 fatty acids are of key importance for the health of the heart and the circulatory system, the balancing of cholesterol, brain function, and the development of children, especially babies. 

3. Which foodstuffs contain omega-3 fatty acids?

A good source of omega-3 fatty acids is primarily blue fish, sea crabs, and shells, and they can also be found in a plant diet, e.g., in flax oil and seeds, canola oil, and nuts.

4. Which quantity of omega-3 fatty acids do we need?

The experts recommend at least 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day.

5. Do vegetarians need to consume food supplements with omega-3 fatty acids?

Vegetarians are recommended to use food supplements with omega-3 fatty acids because they usually have less of them in their blood compared to the rest of the population. The reason for that is that they get these fatty acids only from a plant diet which is a source of only one type of omega-3 fatty acids.

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Couscous with vegetables and chickpeas