As most of you know, my husband, Andy Larson, is a general surgeon with a special interest in bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery). In addition to advocating a healthy diet plan (based on “clean eating”), he recommends omega-3 supplements in the form of pharmaceutical grade fish oil to all of his patients. But, because so many of his patients still don’t fully understand the importance of this recommendation I thought I’d quickly interview Andy while we were recently on vacation in the Bahamas (he’s in a much better mood to do these videos when sitting on the beach!)
- Why do I need omega-3 fats? (I’ll answer this question in this article)
- Are fish oil supplements really safe? (I’ll answer this question tomorrow in Part 2)
Omega-3 Fats Boost Brain Function
I learned about the importance of omega-3 fats almost twelve years ago when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS); omega-3 fats play an important role in supporting a healthy CNS. Since the CNS includes the brain, omega-3 fats (particularly one type of omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid or DHA for short) are often called “brain food”, and for good reason! Did you know your brain is about 60% fat by weight? Even if you don’t have MS, omega-3 fats can dramatically help improve your brain and cognitive function by boosting mental clarity, elevating your mood, improving quickness of thought and enhancing your ability to concentrate.
Can Omega-3 Fats Make You Smarter?
I’ve always been one of those people who couldn’t focus or concentrate very well. In high school I vividly remember reading entire pages from my textbooks only to realize after 15 minutes or so that I had absolutely no clue what I had just read! I always thought this was “normal” until I married my husband and noticed he could pour through the most boring surgical journals ever and not only do so speedy quick but also have a complete understanding of what he had just read! I’m not saying I can now read and comprehend surgical journals just from boosting my omega-3 intake, but I have to say my ability to concentrate dramatically improved since I started making a conscious effort to get more omega-3 fats (from food and fish oil supplements). Because I personally have seen such a huge benefit in my own cognitive function, I am not at all surprised at the research linking inadequate omega-3 fat intake to conditions like Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Omega-3 Fats Decrease Inflammation
I’d like to think knowing omega-3 fats can boost your brain performance would be enough to get you excited, but just in case you aren’t totally sold there’s more…
Research shows omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and even cancer. A lot of people don’t realize heart disease is actually an inflammatory condition, but omega-3 fats (especially in the form of fish oil) are the most anti-inflammatory substances available without a prescription. In the video Andy explains in further detail how omega-3 fats from fish oil protect against cardiovascular disease…and even sudden death. Furthermore, the common denominator between many seemingly unrelated conditions (such as MS, asthma, allergies, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.) is inflammation. Getting enough omega-3 fats can help reduce symptoms of many of these conditions and make you feel better.
Are Omega-3 Fats Beauty Food?
Absolutely! Omega 3 fats act as a natural lubricant for the skin and work from the inside out to help keep your skin soft and supple. No amount of externally applied high end skin cream can compete with the natural internal lubricating benefits you’ll get from an omega-3 rich diet. In fact, some of the symptoms of omega-3 fat deficiency include dry, itchy skin and brittle hair and nails. And, if you battle with breakouts and acne you should notice improvement with these problems too once you start getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fats. Additionally, omega-3 fats from fish oil just might help prevent sun damage to your skin too. In one clinical study, 13 people with sun sensitivity known as photo dermatitis showed less sensitivity to UV rays after taking fish oil supplements. The bottom line is, your skin just won’t look as good and won’t stay as youthful as it otherwise could if you don’t get enough omega-3 fats.
Moms To Be Need Omega-3’s!
Studies show supplementation with omega-3 fats (specifically long-chain omega-3’s in the form of EPA and DHA found in fish oil) during pregnancy boost the health of the mom-to-be and the development of her child. DHA in particular is especially important for visual and neurological development in infants. Getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fats during pregnancy can even affect your baby’s intelligence.
What are Vegan Sources of Omega-3 DHA?
Algae-based DHA is a plant-based omega-3 fat that offers pre-formed DHA, which the body does not have to convert from LNA like it does in the case of flax or chia (note: Algae based oils do not contain EPA, only DHA). However, consumers should know that these algae formulas often use hexane, a toxic solvent, to extract the DHA, so be sure to check your sources. High quality sources of algae-based DHA are a good choice for vegetarians and vegans who want to supplement their diet and do not wish to take fish oil.
Where to Get Your Omega-3 Fats?
Our family gets omega-3 fats from whole foods and from fish oil supplements. We make an effort to get omega-3 fats from vegan sources containing alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) and from marine sources (fatty fish) containing long-chain omega-3 fats in the form of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In a nutshell, here’s what we do:
- We eat fatty fish 2 to 3 times a week. To reduce our exposure to mercury we limit our consumption of big fish such as swordfish and tuna.
- We eat vegan sources of omega-3 rich foods daily such as ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
- We supplement our diets with high-quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil (see PART 2 of this article for a name-brand recommendation)
- We eat at least one huge serving of dark leafy greens a day plus one “green” drink each day (considering how low in calories they are, dark leafy greens have a good amount of omega-3 fat in the form of LNA).
Read more: [intlink id=”2745″ type=”post”]Omega-3 PART 2[/intlink]
Enter to WIN a Gift Basket Valued at $ 88 with Pharmaceutical-Grade Fish Oil
Our favorite brand of pharmaceutical-grade fish oil (www.NordicNaturals.com) will be giving the winner of our contest a gift basket valued at $88. The contest ends September 30, 2010.
PRIZE INCLUDES: One bottle each of the following Nordic Naturals products: Ultimate Omega, Arctic Cod Liver Oil, Children’s DHA, Vitamin D and other fun swag in a Nordic Naturals bag!
To enter the contest follow these simple steps:
- Please send an email to Ivy@CleanCuisineandMore.com nominating someone you think would benefit from the fish oil.
- Check back on September 30th and we will announce the winner! To claim your prize you will then need to email us your name and full address. GOOD LUCK! =) UPDATE ON CONTEST WINNER! Congratulations to Pamela Thelan!! And to all of you who gave us your submissions, thank you so so much. We had too many good nominations to pick the winner based on the stories so we put the best submissions in a hat and picked blindly. It was the only way we could do it. We will have another contest soon so please stay tuned!!