Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly known as the "good fats". They belong to the polyunsaturated fatty acids. But what functions do they have and how much should they take? Find answers to these and other questions about omega-3 fatty acids and how they affect your health here.
What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids together with the omega-6 fatty acids are among the polyunsaturated fatty acids and are vital. Essential fatty acids have to be fed through the diet because the body can not make any of it by itself. This is why omega fatty acids are also considered "good" fats, among other things: They provide important building materials 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. For omega-3 fatty acids, the first double bond is located at the third carbon atom, and at the sixth for omega-6 fatty acids.
There are several omega-3 fatty acids, including:
- Alpha-linolenic acid
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Alpha-linolenic acid can be converted by the body into eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, but only to a limited extent. The remodeling is inhibited by the presence of omega-6-linoleic acid, which normally absorbs more than linoleic acid.
Omega-3 fatty acids: effect
Among other things, unsaturated fatty acids serve as part of the cell membranes of the body. There they ensure that they remain permeable and flexible. The brain is also largely made up of fat. Polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid is the most important fatty acid in the brain. In addition, some polyunsaturated fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, are precursors of hormones and support cell division - this is especially true for omega-3.
The omega fatty acids are especially effective in the treatment of heart health (which is why they are also considered "good"):
- Positive influence on blood lipids: Lower triglyceride and LDL levels, increase HDL cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Stimulates circulation
- Preventing cardiovascular diseases
Omega-3 fatty acids: Occurrence
Alpha-linolenic acid is found mainly in plant foods such as flax, oilseed rape, walnut and its products. Chia seeds also contain alpha-linolenic acid. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are mainly found in fatty marine fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna or sardine.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Daily needs
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, that is, five parts of omega-6 fatty acids to one part omega-3 fatty acids. At the moment, however, the average intake ratio is around 8: 1, because on average, humans consume more food (fat, eggs and meat) containing omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, like all unsaturated fatty acids, react quickly with oxygen. Protection against it provide antioxidants. So if you increase your intake of omega fatty acids, you should also take more antioxidants, such as vitamin E.
Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important during pregnancy and lactation. 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 receives omega-3 fatty acids via breast milk. Unborn babies and infants can not yet form docosahexaenic and eicosapentaenoic acids independently. To ensure optimal development of the baby, it is therefore important that pregnant and lactating women ingest enough Omega-3 fatty acids. This means 0.05 grams in the first trimester, 0.16 grams in the second and third, and 0.25 grams during lactation.
Omega-3 fatty acids: content in foods
How it is ordered to the content of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, read in the article: Omega-3: foods with high content.
Everyday recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is not consistent with most diets, as is the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids. However, to promote your health, it only takes a few small changes in your daily diet:
- Less fat, but more vegetables, fruits and fiber
- Replace fat from animal sources (butter, meat, eggs) more often with vegetable fat (nuts, seeds, vegetable spreads)
- Preferably resort to rapeseed and walnut oil
- Replace one to two meat or sausage meals with fatty sea fish
- Include linseed oil daily in the diet
- Consume hazelnuts and walnuts regularly
Take these tips into account and support the inclusion of Omega-3 fatty acids and thus your health.