Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that come from different healthy fat sources in the diet, and they play an essential role in protecting and promoting our mental health (in addition to their role in our heart, hormone and immune health)!
Recent literature has outlined the finding that individuals with dietary deficiencies in omega-3’s are more likely to develop mental health concerns, including depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, and ADHD(1). This is likely linked to the fact that omega-3 is vital for proper brain development, functioning, and aging.
Some of the ways that omega-3’s have proven to promote our mental well-being is through controlling the inflammation of the brain and through forming and protecting the communication pathways within the brain (aka the neurons)(2-4)!
These essential fatty acids are vital for optimizing human health, and we can be looking for them in a variety of plant and animal sources, as well as in supplements if our diet falls a little short (which is not uncommon). Plant sources primarily provide the omega-3 in the form of ALA, whereas animal sources are higher in the forms of EPA and DHA. It is generally recommended that healthy adults consume ~1100-1600 milligrams of ALA and ~500 mg of EPA and DHA combined most days of the week.
Plant sources and their ALA provision include(5):
Flaxseed oil (7260 mg/Tbsp) and flaxseeds (2350mg/Tbsp)
Chia seeds (5060mg/ounce)
Walnuts (2057 mg/ounce)
Canola oil (1280 mg/Tbsp)
Soybean oil (920 mg/Tbsp) and edamame beans (280 mg/0.5 cup)
Animal sources and their EPA + DHA provision include(5):
Fatty fish such as salmon (1830mg/svg), herring (1710mg/svg), mackerel (1020/svg), trout (840mg/svg), bass (650mg/svg)
Oysters (530 mg/svg + 140 mg ALA)
Shrimp (240 mg/svg)
Based on the food sources above, most people can estimate if they will be able to meet theirs needs from food alone! If not, supplements are a great way to optimize your oral intake! A supplement that meets the needs recommended, with ~500 mg of EPA + DHA is a great place to start if looking!
If you are concerned about your omega-3 intake, or have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out for more information!
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1Lange, K. W. (2020). Omega-3 fatty acids and mental health. Global Health Journal, 4(1), 18-30. Received from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S241464472030004X
2Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379. Received from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0753332202002536
3Ergas, D., Eilat, E., Mendlovic, S. & Sthoeger, Z. (2002). n-3 fatty acids and the immune system in autoimmunity. The Israel Medical Association Journal, 4(1), 34-38. Received from https://europepmc.org/article/med/11802309?utm_medium=111357#similar-articles
4Bazinet, R. P. & Layé, S. (2014). Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their metabolites in brain function and disease. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(12), 771-785. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3820
5National Institutes of Health. (2020, Oct 1). Omega-3 fatty acids: fact sheet for health professionals. Received from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/