Omega 3 fatty acid became famous several years ago when studies tied it to affording possible protection against coronary heart disease. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) gave “qualified health claim” status to a category of fatty acids, including Omega 3.
Why Omega 3?
Omega 3 fatty acids have nearly unparalleled benefits for circulation. Fish oil especially stimulates blood circulation, reduces blood pressure and increases the breakdown of fibrin, a chemical compound that contributes to clot and scar formation in the body. In addition, Omega 3 fatty acids rapidly reduce blood triglyceride levels. Regular use also significantly reduces the chances of secondary and primary heart attacks. While there are no conclusive reports as of yet, some benefits of improvement of rheumatoid arthritis and cardiac arrhythmias have been reported. Scientists are also closely looking at the possible effects that Omega 3 fatty acids have on patients that suffer from depression and anxiety. Preliminary studies have shown “highly significant improvement from Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation.”
How do I get it?
Currently, the largest available source of Omega-3 is cold water oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. Richer than fish oils are flax (aka linseed) and flax oil—probably the largest available source of botanical Omega-3. Other sources of Omega-3 include eggs, milk and cheese that is produced by grass and insect fed animals. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating a variety of fatty fish twice a week or more, and to include other oils and foods that are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (which can be converted to omega-3 by the body). Walnuts, flax seed and tofu are foods that carry significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid and are recommended by the AHA.
While obtaining Omega-3 fatty acid from food sources is preferable, and strongly recommended by the AHA, some people—especially coronary artery disease patients—may not be able to get enough from food sources alone. Supplements of Omega-3 fatty acids are also available, ranging from fish oil to flax oil pills.
Trader Joe’s carries several types of Omega-3 rich foods and supplements, including eggs, fresh seafood and oily fish products, flax seed and walnuts and their oils, and more. If you are at high risk for heart disease or stroke, consult your doctor to determine the amount of Omega-3 fatty acid that is right for you.
Jake Kulju is a freelance writer, and food & wine reviewer. Visit his web site, www.jakekulju.com.