The experts are always telling us to eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines - and for good reason.
"The Omega-3 fatty acids which are found in fish oils help to support cardiac health. As well as this, omega-3 oils play a role in the nervous system and can help support healthy brain function," says Boots Pharmacist Tom Kallis.
Don't like fish? There are other foods which contain omega-3s and you can always take a supplement. Here are five reasons why you should consider getting more omega-3s in your diet - and the best foods and supplements to take.
See also: High fish intake linked to reduced risk of depression
See also: Eating oily fish 'cuts risk of death from bowel cancer'
1. Good for your heart
The link between eating oily fish and good heart health is well established. Many studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower high blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. In addition, they've been shown to lower levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood), and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack.
You know that eating fish is good for your brain, but did you know that it could help protect against Alzheimer's disease? Studies show that people who regularly eat oily fish or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, are less likely to develop dementia. Not only that, oily fish is a good source of vitamin D, which helps protect against mental decline in old age.
3. Good for arthritis
Several studies have shown that taking fish oil can reduce the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, helping to improve joint pain and morning stiffness. There is also some research to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be of benefit to people with osteoarthritis. In one small study, people with osteoarthritis who took New Zealand green lipped mussel, a source of omega-3 fatty acids, reported reduced joint stiffness and pain and increased grip strength.
4. Reduces risk of depression
Studies suggest that eating a lot of fish may help reduce the risk of depression. Researchers in China analysed 26 studies involving more than 150,000 people and found higher fish intake was associated with a reduced risk of depression. Men who ate a diet high in fish were 20% less likely to suffer from depression, while the risk for women was reduced by 16%.
Researchers believe that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may alter the microstructure of brain membranes and modify the activity of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, both of which are thought to be involved in depression.
5. Cuts risk of dying from bowel cancer
Bowel cancer patients who eat a lot of oily fish may cut their chances of dying from the disease, according to one study. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analysed data for 1,659 people who had bowel cancer. Those who consumed polyunsaturated fatty acids of at least 0.3g per day from foods had 41% less chance of death from bowel cancer compared with those who consumed less than 0.10g per day. Experts believe that eating polyunsaturated omega-3s can suppress the growth of cancer tumours and curb blood supply to cancer cells.
Other food sources of omega-3 fatty acids
In addition to eating fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines, you can increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts. Other good food sources include soybeans, tofu, cod liver oil and flaxseed and canola oils.
"Current government recommendation is we should eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, check the more detailed guidelines around this," says Tom.
"Whilst most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need from a healthy, balanced diet, some people may want to consider taking a supplement."
Try Boots High Strength Omega 3 Fish Oil 1000 mg or for vegetarians, Boots Vegetarian Omega 3 60 capsules. Be sure to follow the recommended daily dose.
"As ever, if you're taking any other medicines or have any concerns don't hesitate to pop into your local Boots pharmacy where the team will be able to guide you through the range available," adds Tom.
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