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The benefits of Omega 3

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What are omega 3 fats?

Omega 3. You often see it labelled on products, but what is it exactly and why is it good for you?

Well, Omega 3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that have been believed to benefit your health for a while now.

Like with vitamin C, your body can't make its own omega 3 fats and so has to get them through diet or in supplements.

Why do doctors recommend them?

Your heart needs a good blood supply to pump oxygen and nutrients around your body, but if this blood flow's restricted your heart can be put under pressure.

Large studies suggest that omega 3's can actually protect your heart and circulation and they reduce the risk of dying prematurely from a heart attack.

Omega 3 fats decrease the possibility of irregular heart rhythms which can lead to sudden cardiac death; they decrease the levels of a type of fat found in your blood that's been linked to hardened arteries and heart disease.

Omega 3's also decrease the rate that fatty plaques can fur up the arteries and they reduce the clumping together of small particles that can cause harmful clots. And on top of that they have also been shown to lower blood pressure.

Where can I find them?

Omega 3 fats are naturally found in oily, cold water fish like tuna, salmon and sardines. They can also be found in pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts and many people choose to take a fish oil supplement or vegetarian alternative.

Such are the perceived benefits of having omega 3's in your diet, that some products are now even enriched with them, such as margarine, yoghurts and eggs.

How much should we eat?

So, The Foods Standards Agency recommends that people eat oily fish regularly but that they have no more than four portions a week and it recommends that women who are pregnant, breast feeding or planning to have children limit their amount to two portions a week. This is because of concerns that fish may be contaminated with mercury and other toxins that build up through the food chain and polluted waters.

Possible side effects of omega 3 fatty acids

Some people may experience an upset stomach from taking high doses of fish oils. If this is a problem you can try splitting the total dose into two or three smaller doses per day, or just try lowering doses and eating more oily fish, or a combination of both.

So, there you have it, omega 3's definitely have an important role to play in your diet.

Click here for more articles on Omega 3

BSc, DipNT, member of British Association of Nutritional Therapists (MBANT), Registered Nutritional Therapist with the Nutritional Therapy Council, registered Foresight Preconception practitioner More from this expert.

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