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Benefits of polyunsaturated fats including ‘omega 3’ fats

What are the benefits of omega 3 Fatty Acids in the body?

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are two types of PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids). Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are essential fats which our body can not make them on its own. Therefore, one has to get enough of omega 3 and omega 6 FA in the everyday diet.

Both omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats reduce the risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease. But, Omega 3 FAs  have stronger role in reduction of blood pressure, heart disease , stroke and irregularities of heart rhythm. They have potential benefit in many other diseases such as some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease etc.

Omega 6 PUFAs are abundantly available in Indian diet whereas omega 3 are not! Omega 6 is found abundantly sunflower and safflower oil and moderately in nearly all vegetable oils whereas few vegetable oils  have omega 3 fatty acids in significant amounts

Therefore, experts  guidelines recommend that we increase our intake of omega 3 PUFAs in everyday diet

Omega 3 rich foods :

Fish and fish oils: have omega 3 FAs called EPA and DHA in good concentration. Thes omega 3 FAs are most beneficial in heart disease and  needed for brain and nerve cell functioning. Therefore, all non-vegetarians should have fish in at least two meals per week

Vegetable oils: flaxseed oil (55% omega 3 FAs), canola, mustard and soya bean oils (~7-10%) are rich sources of omega 3 FAs

Seeds and nuts: methi seeds, mustard, flax and bhanjira (ban tulsi) seeds and walnuts are also good sources of omega 3

These vegetable sources have more of ALA and little DHA and EPA. The conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA in the body is uncertain. This is why vegetarian sources of omega 3 FAs are not considered as good as fish oil

Algal oils: algal oil, used in vegetarian omega 3 supplements. is superior to other vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 supplements : who needs it?

People with established ischemic heart disease (IHD) are advised by AHA (American Heart Association) to consume at least one gram of EPA and DHA each everyday.

Otherwise you should try to get enough of omega 3 fatty acids from diet. Children and women of child bearing age should especially make efforts to get enough omega 3 in diet. A good way is to use canola, mustard or soybean oil for cooking and eat more of methi, flaxseed etc. in salads or vegetables

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendations on diet

Photo credit: “Maquereaux etal”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maquereaux_etal.jpg#/media/File:Maquereaux_etal.jpg

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