You will have probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids and thought that unless you eat lots of fish, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. However, you don’t need to eat a lot of white or oily fish every day to get your recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Thanks to omega-3 supplements, there are other ways you can get these essential fats which can have a number of positive effects on your body and brain.
Read our complete beginner’s guide to omega-3 fatty acids to find out how it works, who it is best for, how it improves your memory and more.
How omega-3 works
Omega-3 is a collection of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are naturally found in fish and include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). As polyunsaturated fatty acids can’t be synthesised in our bodies you need good omega-3 fat in your diet to keep it topped up.
Omega-3 is a ‘good’ fat which helps our muscles, skin, joints, eyes and other tissues to stay healthy. It is also said to protect our bodies as we get older.
DHA helps to maintain normal vision and brain function (a beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg of DHA). DHA and EPA contribute to the normal function of the heart (a beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg of EPA and DHA).
Best way to take fish oil
You can take fish oil capsules or liquid to help boost and support your diet or if you have a special health reason for needing extra amounts.
The best time to take omega-3 supplements is with or following a meal which is high in healthy fats such as avocados or nuts. This will help your body absorb the fish oil better and reduce the possibility of any indigestion.
Who should take omega-3 supplements
According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), only 27% of adults in the UK get the recommended weekly intake of 3,150mg of omega-3.
This amount of omega-3 can be found in two 140g portions of fish a week, one white such as cod and another oily, like mackerel.
If you’re showing signs of omega-3 deficiency
There is a long list of signs that you may not be getting enough omega-3. These can range from anxiety and lack of concentration to dry skin, fraying nails, and excessive thirst.
Does omega-3 help the brain?
Omega-3 is essential for the normal functioning and development of the brain, especially in infants and children.
A collaborative study carried out by universities in New Zealand and the UK in 2013 investigated whether DHA improves the cognitive performance in healthy young adults aged between 18 and 45. After analysing the results of the 176 healthy adults, they found that DHA improves reaction times of episodic and working memory. Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events which happened in a specific time or place, while working memory is the memory of temporary information used to make decisions and carry out actions.
Interestingly, the women tested showed a greater improvement in their episodic memory while the male adults recorded significant improvements in their working memory.
Whilst there are different opinions surrounding certain supplements and diets, there is almost a worldwide consensus on the importance and benefits of including omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
If you’re not getting enough DHA or EPA in your diet, then you should consider introducing an omega-3 supplement. Quick and easy yet highly beneficial, you can make significant inroads towards better physical and mental health and you may even protect your health in the years to come.