The official Dietary Guidelines For Americans recommend consuming 8 ounces of fish each week. The FDA agrees with and supports this recommendation.
The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association similarly recommend at least two servings of fish every week.
The essential health benefits of consuming fish appear to come from fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Health Benefits Associated With Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s appear to be essential for every stage of life.
Breastfeeding mothers who take fish oil supplements or eat a lot of fish can help their infant’s hand-eye coordination and help reduce their risk of developing allergies.
Your brain uses Omega-3s to grow new brain and nerve cells. So an adequate supply may benefit learning and improve children’s hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and aggression.
In later life, people who eat more fish tend to have lower rates of mental decline and neurodegeneration.
People with depression have been measured to have lower levels of omega-3s, and supplementation may help alleviate depressive symptoms. Omega-3s may also help improve conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve heart health by reducing multiple factors associated with heart disease:
- decreased risk for arrhythmias
- decreased risk for thrombosis
- decreased triglycerides
- decreased growth rate for artery-stiffening plaque.
- improved cholesterol levels
- lower blood pressure
Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce chronic inflammation and relieve pain and swelling. This may be beneficial for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. It could even reduce inflammation in the liver and improve liver function.
Our eyes rely on Omega-3 fats, and eating fish correlates to a reduced risk for macular degeneration and other vision-related disorders.
Omega-3s also make up a significant amount of the skin, and an adequate intake may improve skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Getting this essential nutrient from food seems much more effective than supplementation.
Omega-3s are found in high concentration in fatty fish, such as:
Omega-3s are can also be found in plant-based sources, such as:
- flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
But the type of omega-3 is slightly different in plant-based sources. Fish oil omega-3s are mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In comparison, plant-based omega-3s are mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
While ALA is also an essential fatty acid, EPA and DHA appear more beneficial.
If you are not eating fish regularly, supplements are available to help you get the recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that you need to stay healthy.