Trend alert: fat is phat. Toss out your low-fat yogurts and cream cheeses, with their high sugar contents and high preservative count. Instead, usher in the era of fat. Not just any kind of fat— these are omega-3 fatty acids we’re talking about. You may be looking at your waistline and thinking, I’m good enough at making fat myself, thank you. I’m just going to go back to my diet soda here. I’ll stop you there because these are some fats that you are going to want to incorporate in your diet. Your body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids— you’ve got to absorb these nutrients from your food. Why should you? If you like having your body function the way bodies should— normal blood clotting, contracting and relaxing of artery walls, and responding to antigens— these omega-3 fatty acids are for you. If you are interested in preventing heart disease and strokes— enough to scour the cereal aisle for those heart healthy cheerios— Omega-3s are for you. These effects are more well known. However, new studies are showing that if you are struggling with depression and are tired of the side effects of antidepressants, Omega-3s are also important for you. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association now recommends the use of this nutrient as an integral part of depression treatment. Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) tells Life Extension magazine “the effect of omega-3s (are) at least as great, if not greater than, antidepressant medications.” This is not to simplify complicated health conditions by saying Omega 3-s are a cure-all, but they certainly are an often neglected piece of the health puzzle.
How does this work? Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat, and Omega 3s are needed for proper growth, development, and function of specialized brain tissue. If you don’t get enough Omega-3s your brain will be forced to use other fats for those structures. Neglecting to correct your Omega three deficiency, then, is like asking your brain to build an apartment duplex out of mud– it’s doable, but bricks would be preferred. A study that attempted to further tackle mechanisms by which the Omega-3 depression connection might work showed that a deficiency in DHA, an Omega 3, increases corticotropin releasing hormones, hormones that moderate emotionality. It appears that hyperactivity of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, an important neuroendocrine system that regulates mood, aggression and fight or flight responses can be modulated by good fats.
Now that you might be convinced and ready to hit the nearest Harris Teeter for some of that good fat, let’s talk about what makes up the holy trinity of Omega threes. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found mostly in fish- sardines, salmon, herring, trout, and tuna (though go easy on the tuna due to high mercury content) . Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is the omega-3 fatty acid that is most abundant in typical Western diets. ALA is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals. It’s difficult if not impossible to get enough omega-3 in your diet so a high quality , well source supplement is your best source. Here’s our recommendation: