However, according to a June 2022 study published in Current Developments in NutritionAnd the American adults lack adequate amounts of two of the three main omega-3 fatty acidsIncluding DHA, which is arguably the most important brain-boosting fatty acid of the group.
Keep reading to learn more about omega-3s, the different types, and how to increase your intake of them to keep your mind and body in top shape.
What are omega-3 fatty acids and how do they support brain health?
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats or ‘healthy fats’ found in both animal and plant foods. Bianca Tamborello, RDN, a nutritionist in New York. “It’s important to make sure you eat foods rich in omega-3s because our bodies cannot make these essential nutrients.”
As mentioned earlier, omega-3s support overall health in a number of ways, although they are particularly well known for promoting and protecting brain health throughout an individual’s life. “This powerful nutrient supports mental health and is linked to age-related cognitive declineas well as a Decreased risk of depression and fewer depressive symptoms,” Tamborillo says. She also notes that omega-3s — and DHA in particular — are Critical for fetal and newborn brain developmentWhich is why it is an integral part of the diet of expectant and new mothers.
Types of Omega 3
Tamburello shares that three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
“DHA is thought to be a particularly important omega-3 that is essential for the structure of the brain, eyes, and other parts of the body,” Tamborillo says. “DHA and EPA both have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight inflammation, which is beneficial in helping associated diseases.” Unfortunately, the results of the previously cited 2022 study show that American adults do not meet the adequate intake (AI) of omega-3s on a regular basis.
However, many adults seem to be reaching their AI values for ALA – and this discrepancy makes sense once you understand what their most important food sources are. “ALA is found in plant foods, seeds, and seed oils including flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybean, soybean oil, canola oil, chia seeds, and walnuts,” Tamborillo says. “Because vegetable oils are found in many processed foods, ALA is more common in the Western diet than DHA and EPA.” In other words, even if you don’t add flaxseed oil to your morning smoothie or lunch mason jar salad With chia seeds, some of the less nutritious food choices can help you reach your AI values for ALA, which (depending on the source) is between 1.1 grams to 2 grams in a day.
“The role of ALA is to convert food into energy that the body can use to function regularly,” Tamborillo says. “Although the body can convert a small amount of ALA into DHA and EPA, this process does not create enough EPA and DHA to replace foods with EPA and DHA.” Simply put, it pays to take a close look at your diet to make sure you’re getting enough DHA (and EPA) to keep your mind, mood, and body healthy for years to come.
3 Ways To Increase Your DHA Intake To Reap More DHA Benefits
In order to reap the greatest brain-boosting benefits of omega-3 DHA, you’ll need to prioritize getting more of these nutrients in your diet. Here are the best ways to do that.
1. Eat more fish
“To boost your intake of DHA, eat more fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna,” Tamborillo says. She says they are among the The most important sources From DHA * and * EPA, so head to your local fishmonger (and/or browse Canned fish and canned seafood options) to get more nutrient-rich bang for your buck. She also suggests looking for options that are generally rich in omega-3s. “For example, I look for salmon from Chile because it’s particularly high in omega-3s,” she adds.
Note: Tamburello states that unlike ALA, DHA does not have a firm recommendation to take it on its own; Instead, health organizations often suggest combined values for DHA and EPA. “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans He recommends eating two servings of fish (about eight ounces total) per week for overall health. This adds up to an average of 250 milligrams of DHA and EPA per serving, although consuming more DHA and EPA is also beneficial. (People with cardiovascular disease are advised to increase their combined daily intake of DHA and EPA to About one gram per day.)
2. Stock up on fish oil or fish oil supplements
“There are very few plant sources of DHA, which makes it more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get this nutrient through the diet,” Tamborillo says. However, if you follow a plant-based diet or simply don’t enjoy fish and/or seafood, fish oil and fish oil supplements are additional approved sources of DHA.
Learn more about fish oil supplements from a registered dietitian by watching this video:
3. Supplement with algae oil
If supplementing with fish oil and fish oil is difficult for you (whether you stick to a vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise diet), make sure there is an option out there that can seamlessly help boost the benefits of DHA: algae oil. “Those who don’t feel comfortable taking fish oil supplements can rely on algal oil, which contains both DHA and EPA,” Tamborillo says. Additionally, she also suggests that people who fall into this camp should prioritize healthy sources of ALAs, such as chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds to maintain a greater omega-3 play.