Omega-3s help support optimal brain and heart health By Zoey Sky for Nutrients
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s) or taking supplements is essential for your well-being. Omega-3s work as bioactive lipids and data have shown that they can help boost your heart health, specifically by promoting healthy blood pressure, triglyceride and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels.
Additionally, omega-3s have a beneficial effect on blood flow and circulation. This effect also extends to your heart health and brain function.
Omega-3s: Beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that come in three main forms: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
These fatty acids have a role in various biological pathways in the body, but you need to consume omega-3s through a balanced diet and supplementation to reach optimal levels since:
- ALA is not produced organically in the body
- EPA and DHA are converted from ALA, but the process is extremely inefficient, which is why direct consumption of EPA and DHA is crucial.
You need omega-3s for many bodily processes throughout your whole life. Omega-3s support growth and development from pregnancy through adolescence.
They are also just as important later in life because they can help you stay sharp as you age via memory and mental acuity. Additionally, omega-3s help boost your brain and eye health and overall nervous system.
Omega-3s support your overall well-being by facilitating circulation. Data have found that omega-3s can help promote blood flow and healthy triglyceride levels.
Omega-3s also help keep blood vessels clear by reducing platelet aggregation, which offers several benefits since your blood delivers nutrients, oxygen, hormones, bioactive compounds and more throughout your entire body.
Why is blood flow important for heart health?
Omega-3s support cardiovascular health in two main ways: by helping maintain healthy levels of HDL and triglycerides.
Research also suggests that omega-3s can support normal endothelial function, like the proper dilation of blood vessels, and arterial compliance or a measure of arterial elasticity, which are factors that are also linked to proper blood flow and pressure.
By supporting these cardiovascular functions, omega-3s help to improve circulation and overall heart health.
This is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a health claim related to marine omega-3s EPA and DHA and their ability to reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary heart disease.
Blood flow and brain function
Proper blood flow ensures that your brain cells get a constant supply of oxygen and glucose, which they need to function optimally. This increased blood flow to your brain is linked to different mood and cognitive health benefits, like improving cognitive function and memory as you age.
Omega-3s also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have a role in preventing oxidative stress in the brain and throughout the rest of your body. This is important because oxidative stress homeostasis and cerebral circulation are key indicators of cognitive function, and omega-3s support both to “promote multiple dimensions of brain health.”
Dietary sources of omega-3s
According to the American Heart Association, you should eat fatty fish at least twice a week to maintain adequate levels of omega-3s. Unfortunately, at least 90 percent of Americans fail to do so.
To boost your dietary intake of omega-3s, eat more of these nutritious superfoods:
Fatty fish have some of the highest concentrations of omega-3s, particularly EPA and DHA.
If you’re looking for other sources of omega-3s or if you’re a vegan, you can also get omega-3s, specifically, plant-based ALA, from:
Seeds like hemp and flax are particularly high in ALA. Meanwhile, cashews are the best nut source of omega-3s. (Related: Research shows fish oil supplements boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments.)
Aside from eating these nutritious food sources of omega-3s, you can also boost your intake of these beneficial fatty acids with proper supplementation.
To maximize the cardioprotective benefits of omega-3s, consume at least one gram or more of EPA and DHA daily. This is the equivalent of eating an omega-3-rich fish per day.
Choose a high-quality and pure omega-3 supplement to improve blood flow and support overall brain function and heart health.