Why Do We Need Omega 3?

The importance of essential fatty acids in our diets really can’t be underestimated.  They are part of all cell membranes and are what make our cells flexible.  They are also very important for the nervous system.  Consider that 60% of the brain is made up of fats and you start to see how important they are.  DHA is particularly abundant in the nervous system which is why it is considered a “brain food.”  You also have high concentrations of essential fatty acids in the retina, so the fats are important for vision.

Essential fatty acids are also involved in regulating inflammation, but in very different ways.  Omega 3 reduces inflammation whereas Omega 6 increases inflammation.

Inflammation is the root cause of many health problems ranging from acne to arthritis, so getting these nutrients in the right balance is crucial.

Because of how important essential fatty acids are for health, they are linked to many health benefits.  Note, however, that some of these benefits have been really exaggerated or hyped (especially by companies trying to sell you supplements).  The studies on essential fatty acids can also be conflicting. For instance, one study showing that supplementing with essential fatty acid can drastically reduce risk of heart disease while another study shows that the benefits are negligible or nonexistent.

Some of the health benefits of essential fatty acid which are likely true (though often hyped-up) include:

  • Better Skin, Hair and Nails: Supplementing with essential fatty acid can improve the appearance and strength of skin, hair and nails.
  • Improved Mental Health: Various studies show that essential fatty acid (particularly Omega 3) are crucial for mental health and supplementing with them can reduce symptoms of depression, as well as other mood disorders like anxiety.
  • Fetal Development: Studies have shown that the children of pregnant women who supplement with essential fatty acid (particularly DHA) are less likely to have developmental problems and the children may also have higher cognitive scores.
  • Reduced Risk of Heart Disease: Essential fatty acid supplements are commonly touted for reducing the risk of heart disease. One of the ways that they do this is by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Omega 3 fatty acids in particular have shown to reduce risk of heart disease because they thin blood (reducing the risk of a clot), prevent inflammation (reducing blood pressure), and slow the buildup plaque in the arteries. By contrast, some studies have implied that Omega 6 can increase the risk of heart disease by causing inflammation in arteries. The American Heart Association contests this though, and instead says that people need to seek a better balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: In particular, DHA has shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other old-age cognitive diseases such as dementia.
  • Arthritis and Inflammation Disorders: Omega 3 fatty acids help block the immune system’s inflammation response, so they have shown effective as a natural treatment for many inflammation disorders such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and even (to some extent) asthma.

Best Sources of Vegan Omega 3

Vegan Omega 3 and DHA Supplements

Omega 3 and DHA supplements commonly used fish oil.  Luckily, there are now a lot of vegan omega 3 and DHA supplements from algae and other sources,such as those indicated below. 

Have a look at the charts alongside: Food Sources – Fats & Omegas Page 1, 2 and 3 for more ideas.