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Omega-3s and Why They’re Incredible

Omega-3 fatty acids have become quite popular due to recent studies and research. But what exactly makes this fat okay? And can this fat do for our bodies?

Fats are essential for healthy growth and maintenance. If you’re adhering to eating habits that limit the amount of fats you take in, this could be doing far more harm than good—healthy fatty acids are required for proper cell structure, and will affect everything from hair and skin to blood and joints.

There are two fatty acids that deserve a spotlight: Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are essential to a body’s optimum function. Omega-6 fats are what thicken our blood, making it capable of clotting when we’ve sustained an injury—something that comes in handy, you’ll agree. Omega-6s can be more readily found in a Western diet (heavy on baked goods, eggs, poultry, cereals, and vegetable oils). Omega-3 fats do just the opposite—they thin blood, making it easier to move through veins and arteries, and making it easier for the heart to pump, reducing the stress placed on our most vital organ, and therefore reducing many heart-and-stress-related diseases and symptoms.

A balance of these two fats makes for an ideal consistency, but most Western diets favor a lopsided ratio of these fats: when there should be a ratio of 4-1 in favor of Omega-3s, it’s more common to see a ratio of 20-1 in favor of Omega-6s. This makes blood far more likely not only to thicken too much (making it harder for the body to pump it), but to form clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. No wonder heart disease has been one of the most common causes of death for the last few decades!

*An obvious contraindication is if you’re already taking prescription blood thinners. If you are on any prescription blood thinners, please have a discussion with your medical doctor to find out if increasing Omega-3s is right for you.

So balance is key. What else can Omega-3s do?

Beyond heart and blood health, Omega-3s have been shown to help reduce many other common health issues. Let’s work our way down—

Brain:

Omega-3s constructively affect the chemistry of cells that relate to memory, attention span, and focus, helping with diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. These illnesses occur when cell membranes have broken down and can no longer function as they’re designed to. Omega-3s strengthen those membranes again, making it possible for cells to work correctly again.

Mood-related diseases such as depression and bipolar disorder, and performance-related diseases like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be improved upon with Omega-3s as well. They’ve been found to reduce mood swings and improve concentration.

Nervous system:

Neurological disorders occur when the myelin sheath (the element that protects the nerve fibers and makes it safe for information to travel through the nerves) has broken down. This is a common factor in Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s, as well as many other neurological disorders like lupus, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and Bell’s palsy. Omega-3s help improve the integrity of the myelin sheath, making sure that information getting from the brain to the rest of the body through the nervous system can actually get there. Chiropractic care will then make neurological health even stronger by targeting areas along the nervous system that may have interference (or subluxations) and removing that interference.

Dietary concerns:

Symptoms from diseases such as diabetes and those caused by high cholesterol can be effectively reduced by Omega-3s too. Fatty fish are a rich source of both lean protein and Omega-3s, and are staples of many Asian diets. Research has proven that this makes for a higher quantity of HDL (good) cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood).

Miscellaneous:

Because of the anti-inflammatory capabilities of Omega-3s, the list of diseases that are addressed goes on and on:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Skin disorders such as sensitivity, acne, and psoriasis
  • Asthma
  • Menstrual pain
  • Several forms of cancer (breast, colon, prostate)

How can I get more Omega-3s?

Fortunately, the body doesn’t need much to maintain its healthy ratio of 4-1 in favor of Omega-3; two servings of 3-4 ounces of cold-water fish will get you through the week. There are a variety of foods that supply this nutrient:

  • cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring
  • walnuts
  • flaxseed
  • spinach
  • kidney beans
  • broccoli
  • cantaloupe
  • cauliflower
  • canola oil
  • fish oil supplements

For best results, start making some simple substitutions: instead of a cookie at snack time, eat a handful of walnuts (which are packed with Omega-3s and healthy protein to keep you full). Instead of a hamburger for dinner, try some sushi (the calcium content of the seaweed and the Omega-3s & protein from the fish will make for a tasty and balanced meal). For more recipe ideas, visit http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_omega_3_recipes

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