The first time I heard of Omega-3 fatty acids, I was listening to a local radio programme. But I was left asking many questions, like how they look like, where we can find them and their benefits. So what exactly are Omega-3 fatty acids or oils?
Hope Nimurungi, a nutritionist at AAR Health Service, says Omega-3 fatty acids are essential oils that our bodies need for proper functioning. These acids, she says, are got from some foods that we consume regularly such as fish, groundnuts, olive oil, sunflower, simsim and avocado.
The different types
The fatty acids are made up of a combination of omega-3, 6 and 9. “Omega-3 fatty acids can be provided by fish and nut oils, while omega-6 fatty acids can be found in palm oil, avocado, soybean, and sunflower oils. Omega-9 fatty acids on the other hand can be found in olive oil,” says Nimurungi.
Omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide range of health benefits, which include helping to lower risk of coronary heart diseases and improving cholesterol.
“People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the bad cholesterol level in their blood. A high level of bad cholesterol in the body is one of the primary causes of heart diseases. By dieting on omega oils, you can increase the amount of good cholesterol in your body,” Nimurungi explains.
She adds: “Eating fatty fish can be healthy for the heart because the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. This oil is particularly good for people who have experienced heart attacks before.”According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, Omega-3 oils reduce inflammation and help to prevent inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
In addition to warding off inflammation, omega-3 fatty oils are also essential for the brain, impacting behaviour and cognitive function, and are especially necessary during foetal development. “They also help to improve artery health by reducing plaque buildup and blood clots in arteries that lead to the brain,” says Nimurungi.
Nimurungi says because the foods that contain these healthy oils are readily available, people need to consume them more frequently.