By Stephanie Crawford
One of the biggest buzzwords in healthy eating is omega-3. You can see it featured on cereal boxes and in TV commercials. What is omega-3, and why is it important? The answer is simple: It’s one type of fat you can’t live without.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a category of polyunsaturated fats that help maintain the cell membranes for every cell in your body. Like other fatty acids, omega-3 is a collection of nutrients you consume with your food. You can get the omega-3 you need in your diet from certain nuts, fruits, vegetables and coldwater fish. Research has shown that omega-3s can also help reduce the symptoms of high blood pressure, depression, ADHD and joint problems [source: Bouchez].
Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential polyunsaturated fats. They help support healthy skin and the ability of the blood to clot. You can get your omega-6s in eggs, chicken and plant oil products like vegetable oil, corn oil and margarine. Too many omega-6s, though, can increase your chance of heart attack or stroke. You can reduce that negative impact by balancing the omega-6s with a significant amount of omega-3s.
The latest research suggests that a healthy ratio between these fatty acids is one part omega-3s for every two to four parts omega-6s [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]. The National Institutes of Health say that the typical American diet is a ratio of about 1 part omega-3s to 10 parts omega-6s [source: National Standard Research Collaboration]. The significant difference in these ratios (1:2-1:4 and 1:10) reveals one possible reason heart disease is so prevalent in the United States.
Despite these compelling ratios, the research is still going on to find a recommended daily allowance value for omega-3s [source: Peck and Childs]. Researchers and physicians seem to vary in their own recommendations. These recommendations cite specific omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 300 to 500 milligrams daily of EPA and DHA, and 800 to 1,100 milligrams daily of ALA [source: National Standard Research Collaboration].
This article covers the five top resources for the tasty omega-3s you need to balance out those delicious omega-6s, listed in no particular order.
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