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Here's why you need to include omega-3 fats in your diet

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of fats and they play an important role in keeping us healthy.

Omega-3s are a kind of polyunsaturated fats (so called “good fats"). There are three types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Why are omega-3 fats important for your health?

Omega-3s have structural and functional role. They are an integral part of our body cells, in particular of the brain and retina. About 50% of our brain is made of fat, and DHA is the most abundant type of fat.

Omega-3s are linked with lower risk for cardiovascular health and have an immune protective action (1,2,3). Some evidence also links omega-3s with improved cognitive health and decreased risk of dementia (4), but more studies are needed to confirm this link.

Can our body produce omega-3s?

Our body can produce EPA and DHA from ALA, but this process is not very efficient, which is why it is important that we consume enough omega-3s in our diet.

Where can you find omega-3s?

ALA is present in nuts and seeds (e.g. walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds) and green leafy vegetables. EPA and DHA are prominently found in oily fish and fish oil. Some foods, such as eggs, may be fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. If you do not eat fish, you may consider taking a supplement. Examples of oily fish:

- Salmon - Sardines

- Mackerel - Anchovies

- Herring - Trout

- Swordfish

…and tuna?

Canned tuna does not count as oily fish, and since 2018 fresh tuna does not count as oily fish either. That is because the levels of omega-3 fatty acids present in fresh tuna are comparable to the ones in white fish (which are lower than the levels in oily fish) (5). This is not to say that tuna is not a valid option – it is still fish! White fish is low in fat, it contains proteins and a range of minerals and vitamins. Moreover, including more fish in your diet may help you to reduce the consumption of red and processed meat.

How much oily fish should you eat?

UK national guidelines recommend eating at least 2 portions of fish a week (one of which should be oily). Pregnant women or breastfeeding or women planning a pregnancy should not consume more than 2 portions of oily fish a week due to the higher pollutants compared to other sea food.



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