The Truth About Omega-3 (Including How Much of It You Really Need)

Omega-3 Foods on Wood Background

Omega-3 Foods on Wood Background | iStock.com

The down-low on Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids fall under the polyunsaturated fatty acids category, making them much healthier than saturated fats. However, your body can’t make them, so it’s crucial you know how many you need since you need to get them through your diet. Omega-3s lower your “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and decrease your risk of heart disease.

We compiled the best and healthiest ways to get your daily dosage of omega-3s. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are full of good fat, but you can find them in other plant-based foods as well. Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and pumpkin seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (another type of omega-3 fatty acid).

So why do you need this “good fat?” Omega-3s are crucial to positive brain function, normal growth and development, and keeping inflammation in check. You can never have too much of a good thing, right? Wrong, at least when it comes to omega-3s. More omega-3s don’t equal better disease prevention and health than others.

There aren’t specific guidelines for Omega-3 intake

But we still spend a ton of money on supplements. Fish oil supplements are advertised as a simple and effective way to get your omega-3s even if you aren’t crazy about making salmon for dinner every night. They claim to protect your heart health, lengthen your life, and strengthen your mind. So Americans spend over $1 billionĀ per year on fish oil.

So while there’s no FDA-approved standard for how much omega-3 you should get each day, various organizations have released their own expert advice. Most recommend an average minimum of 250-500 mg per day and potentially more for adults with heart conditions.

Extremely high levels of fish oil have been linked to prostate cancer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website read in 2014. Omega-3 oils correlated with a 71% increase in aggressive prostate cancer risk, according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute via Livestrong.

Flaxseed falling into a bowl

Flaxseed falling into a bowl | iStock

Still, the evidence is actually mixed

As recently as 2013, researchers disclaimed all the preconceived positive notions surrounding omega-3 supplements. They published that omega-3 fatty acid supplements don’t actually help heart health for people with risk factors with heart disease.

And while the some researchers are convinced there is a correlation between fish oil and prostate cancer rates, others suggest diets high in fish oil supplements can actually reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

So while the research is still mixed, it’s unclear exactly how much fish oil you should take in on a daily basis. The healthiest option? Talk to your physician, try and get your omega-3 fatty acids through your diet rather than a supplement, and get at least the expert-recommended 250 to 500 mg a day.

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