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Omega-3 fatty acids: This is what you need

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 149 views

Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly known as the “good fats”. They belong to the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. But what exactly are their functions and how much of them should you include? And which foods are good suppliers? You can find answers to these and other questions about omega-3 fatty acids here.

This is why omega-3 fatty acids are so healthy

There are several relevant omega-3 fatty acids for the body, including:

  • Alpha Linolenic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

The body can convert alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, but only to a small extent. In fact, the remodeling is inhibited by the presence of omega-6 linoleic acid, of which one normally absorbs more than linolenic acid.

The body uses unsaturated fatty acids, among other things, as a component of cell membranes. There they ensure that they remain permeable and flexible. The brain also consists largely of fat . The polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid is the most important fatty acid in the brain. In addition, some polyunsaturated fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, are precursors of hormones and support cell division – this applies in particular to omega-3.

However, the omega fatty acids are particularly effective in heart health, which is why they are also considered to be health-promoting:

  • positive influence on blood lipids: lower triglyceride and LDL levels, increase HDL cholesterol
  • hypotensive
  • circulation-enhancing
  • Cardiovascular disease prevention

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

But what exactly are these highly praised omega-3 fatty acids? Together with the omega-6 fatty acids, they belong to the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids and are essential to life. They are essential, which means they have to be supplied through food because the body cannot produce some of them itself. Omega fatty acids are also considered “good” fats, among other things: They provide important building blocks for the organism.

The fatty acids consist of a carbon chain, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds in their chemical structure. The position of the first double bond determines whether it is an omega-3 or an omega-6 fatty acid. In omega-3 fatty acids, the first double bond is on the third carbon atom, in omega-6 fatty acids on the sixth.

Omega-3 fatty acids: where are they in?

Alpha-linolenic acid is mainly found in plant foods such as flax , rapeseed, walnuts and their products. Chia seeds also contain alpha-linolenic acid. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are mainly found in fatty sea fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna or sardines.

You can find out how the content of omega-3 fatty acids in food is in the article: Omega-3: foods with a high content .

Omega-3 fatty acids: Daily requirement

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends covering 0.5 percent of the total daily energy intake with the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be 5:1, i.e. five parts omega-6 fatty acids to one part omega-3 fatty acids. Currently, however, the average ratio is around 8:1, because on average people consume more foods (fat, eggs and meat) that contain omega-6 fatty acids.

Like all unsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids react quickly with oxygen. Antioxidants protect against this. So when you increase your intake of omega fatty acids, you should also increase your intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E .

Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation

Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Especially in the last three months of pregnancy, the unborn child is supplied with docosahexaenoic acid via the umbilical cord. This is crucial for the development of the brain and retina.

The newborn also gets omega-3 fatty acids through breast milk. Unborn babies and infants cannot yet form docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid on their own. In order to ensure optimal development of the baby, it is therefore important that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. This means 0.05 grams in the first trimester, 0.16 grams in the second and third trimester and an additional 0.25 grams during breastfeeding. Talk to your gynecologist about this.

Everyday recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids

The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is not correct in most diets, as is the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids. To promote your health, however, it only requires a few small changes in your daily diet:

  • Eat less fat, but more vegetables, fruit and fiber
  • Replace fat from animal sources ( butter , meat, eggs) more often with vegetable fat (nuts, seeds, vegetable spreads)
  • prefer to use rapeseed and walnut oil
  • Replace one or two meat or sausage meals with fatty sea fish
  • Include linseed oil in your diet every day if possible
  • eat hazelnuts and walnuts regularly

If you follow these tips, you support the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and thus your health.

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