Consume foods rich in omega-3s to support brain and heart health

Consume foods rich in omega-3s to support brain and heart health By  for Food Science

Omega 3-fatty acids are fatty acids that function as bioactive lipids. Omega-3s have been shown to improve heart health by promoting healthy blood pressure, triglyceride and HDL, or “good” cholesterol, levels.

However, an often overlooked benefit of omega-3s is their effect on blood flow and circulation.

Omega-3s have a role in proper blood flow, which is important for your heart health and brain function.

Why are omega-3s important?

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that come in three main forms:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

Omega-3s are needed for different critical biological pathways in the body, but you need to consume these fatty acids through diet and supplementation to reach optimal levels since ALA is not produced organically in the body.

Meanwhile, EPA and DHA are converted from ALA. However, the process is inefficient so the consumption of EPA and DHA is essential for your well-being.

Omega-3s have a role in several bodily processes:

  • Omega-3s support growth and development from pregnancy through adolescence.
  • Omega-3s are also crucial later in life because they help keep you sharp as you age.
  • Omega-3s help boost the health of your brain, eyes and nervous system.

Omega-3s also support your well-being by facilitating circulation. According to research, omega-3s help promote blood flow and healthy triglyceride levels.

Omega-3s also ensure that your blood vessels remain clear by reducing platelet aggregation. This is important because your blood delivers bioactives, hormones, nutrients, oxygen and more to your whole body.

This is also why optimal blood flow is crucial for proper heart and brain function. (Related: Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids may help stave off conditions linked to aging like Alzheimer’s and heart disease.)

Blood flow and heart health

Omega-3s support cardiovascular health in two main ways: by helping maintain healthy levels of “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Omega-3s are also shown to support normal endothelial function, or the proper dilation of blood vessels, and arterial compliance, a measure of arterial elasticity. Both factors also contribute to proper blood flow and pressure.

By supporting these cardiovascular functions, omega-3s help to improve circulation and your overall heart health. Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a health claim related to marine omega-3s EPA and DHA and their ability to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) and coronary heart disease risk.

Blood flow and brain function

Proper blood circulation helps improve heart health and supports optimal brain function.

Proper blood flow provides your brain cells with a constant supply of oxygen and glucose, which they need to function optimally. This increased blood flow to the brain is linked to many mood and cognitive health benefits, like improving cognitive function and memory as you age.

Omega-3s also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are essential for fighting oxidative stress in the brain and throughout your body.

Both oxidative stress homeostasis and cerebral circulation are key indicators of cognitive function, and omega-3s support both to promote various dimensions of brain health.

Dietary sources of omega-3s

The following foods are full of omega-3s:

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Lake trout
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Striped bass
  • Tuna

Higher-fat fish have some of the highest concentrations of omega-3s, particularly EPA and DHA. According to the American Heart Association, you should eat fatty fish at least twice a week to get adequate levels of omega-3s.

Unfortunately, at least 90 percent of Americans are not getting enough omega-3s.

If you are vegan, here are some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s:

Hemp and flaxseeds are rich in ALA. Meanwhile, cashews are the best nut source of omega-3s.

Another option is to take omega-3 supplements to ensure you achieve healthy omega-3 levels. Fish oil and other omega-3 supplements full of DHA are also a great option for pregnant women because DHA has a crucial role in fetal growth and development.

To maximize cardioprotective benefits, consume one gram or more of EPA and DHA per day. That’s equivalent to eating an omega-3-rich fish daily.

Improve blood flow and overall brain function and heart health by consuming foods rich in omega-3s or taking supplements.

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