Some health oriented people tend to cringe from the words oils or fats, yet good fats are essential for good health. Fish oil provides a special type of good fat called essential fatty acids.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are divided into two groups: omega-6 EFAs and omega-3 EFAs. Omega-6 EFAs are found in vegetable oils, while omega-3 EFAs are found in fish oils, among other foods such as marine plankton, walnut and flaxseed oils. The key to good health is maintaining a healthy ratio between the two. Most people get far too many omega-6 EFAs in a typical diet.
The Risks of Imbalanced Consumption
Disproportionate consumption of omega-6 EFAs can lead to inflammation, blood clots, and even tumor growth. Many scientists and physicians believe that a significant cause behind the increase in high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer is an imbalanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs. Where do we get more omega-3s? Fish oil is an excellent source.
What Fish are High in Fish Oil?
Both saltwater and freshwater fish can be good sources of fish oil. Examples include salmon, tuna, herring, sea bass, swordfish, turbot, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and trout. Smaller species lower in the food chain tend to be safer choices, since heavy metals such as mercury can accumulate in larger fish such as swordfish.
What’s so Great about Fish Oil?
Fatty fish and fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two fatty acids provide many benefits to the human body. Studies have indicated that they reduce the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, depression and some forms of cancer. They seem to be protective of eye health as well. Fish oils assist in the treatment of several illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, ADHD, and ulcerative colitis.
Since heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, adding fish oil to your diet seems prudent. Fish oil has also been shown to be helpful in reducing obesity, which is another prominent health issue today.
Because fish oil reduces inflammation, it can be particularly beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. If you have joint pain of any kind, consider taking fish oil supplements daily or adding fatty fish like salmon to your diet a couple of times per week..
Fish oil also enhances physical performance, increasing muscle growth, improving strength, and reducing muscle damage and soreness from exercise.
Fish Oil Boosts Memory and Brain Power
Fish oil has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in studies, supporting both memory and thinking. There is some evidence that a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids causes the brain to age faster, so consuming fish oil regularly is a good strategy for keeping your brain healthy.
Protective against Air Pollution?
A 2012 American study found that fish oil, among its many other benefits, they also be protective against air pollution. This is of particular interest to readers here in Hong Kong, since our air quality is sometimes less than pure. In the study, middle-aged adults who received 3 g of fish oil daily did not have the same negative responses to exposure to unclean air as those who only took placebo.
It’s important to get your fish oil from quality sources since contamination with mercury is a concern with many fish. Since each fish oil supplement contains both DHA and EPA, read the labels. The DHA and EPA combined should be half, or more than half the total mg of the capsule. If your primary concern is inflammation, choose a supplement with a higher amount of EPA. If mood and brain health is your goal, focus on capsules higher in DHA.