If you really want optimal health then getting more omega 3 fats in your diet is crucial.
And one of the best sources you can eat is found in fish oils.
This is why sales of fish oil supplements have been steadily rising over the last few years with millions of people around the world regularly taking fish oil or similar type omega 3 supplements on a regular basis.
Eating more fish oil and omega 3 fats in general has been linked with improving heart disease , hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and brain functionality and a whole host of other health conditions.
However, research over the last decade remains inconclusive in terms of the effectiveness of fish oil supplements in helping protect against or manage these health conditions.
That said omega 3 fats have shown to have many other benefits not just for overall health but also in areas that you may not have been aware of before.
In this article, I want to reveal six benefits of fish oils and other omega 3 sources that you may find surprising.
What are Omega 3 fats?
Omega 3 fats are known as essential fats in that the body is unable to create them so we have to supply them via food sources such a fish, wild meats, oils, nuts and certain vegetables.
There are three types of omega-3s, which are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha Linolenic acid). EPA and DHA exist mainly in fish sources whereas ALA occurs in natural foods such as vegetable oils, walnuts and flax seeds.
Of the three fats, EPA and DHA have more health benefits than ALA so this is why many of the omega 3 supplementation products focus on these two fats as their main sources.
Six reason to eat more fish oil.
1: Helps Build Muscle
As you will find out later fish oils can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce cortisol levels. By doing this, your ability to build muscle through protein synthesis is also going to improve. This is because insulin transports nutrients and hormones into the muscle cells and the more sensitive your body is to insulin the more opportunity these important components have to reach your muscle cells and start the building process.
This research shows consuming a small amount of fish oil can increase protein synthesis by as much as 30 percent. It does this by enhancing certain mechanisms that allow protein synthesis to occur and therefore lead to a better environment for creating new muscle.
2: Reduce Inflammation:
Inflammation in the body can be very damaging if not treated properly over time. When we think of inflammation, we normally just associate it with pain but it can lead to other health issues such as illness and diseases that are more serious.
The more inflamed your body is the less ability you have to lose fat and build muscle and the s not just connected to pain but may increase the vulnerability to other diseases. It can also reduce your ability to lose fat and build muscle, in other words inflammation is bad.
Thankfully, research links fish oil to helping with inflammation with such studies like this and this one. A group of 250 people suffering with neck and back pain where given fish oil supplements then asked to respond a questionnaire sent out to them.
After around 75 days of taking the fish oil 125 people sent, back the questionnaire. From this group 60% claimed to have reduced pain and better joint pain. Over 80% were happy with the progress they had made and 88% said they would continue to take the fish oil supplements with 59% stating they would stop taking their painkillers as well.
Now, just taking fish oil will not rid you of all inflammation.
There is whole host of actions needed to help deal with inflammation levels, including a healthy diet rich in natural foods, regular exercise, good quality sleep, stress reducing activities and a lifestyle that is not too excessive
3: Reduced Stress Levels
High stress levels are one of the major health issues facing many of us today. Being in a continually stressed state is not only damaging mentally but also takes its toll on the body too leading to many other serous and sometime life threatening health problems.
This is why we all put a much greater emphasis on recognizing stress in our lives and then figuring out how to cope with it better. There are a number of stress management techniques to employ but one you may not have considered is taking fish oil.
A recent study done on recovering alcoholics concluded that taking omega 3 supplements may reduce distress systems and cortisol secretion and would provide a valid tool to increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs.
Other, studies have found that fish oil slows down activation of the adrenal glands and decreases the stress reaction from your heart both beneficial for keeping your cardiovascular system healthy.
If you are experiencing lots of stress then adding fish oil in your diet is a good idea to help deal with it more effectively.
4: Improved Recovery from Exercise.
If you are doing a lot of exercise or actively involved in a sport at a good level being able to recover quickly from your workouts is important.
A recent review discovered that for young male athlete’s fish oils might be able to help the body recover better from intense exercise due to its effect on the body´s immune response.
Along with keeping your immune system stronger after exercise fish oils help with improving muscles soreness that can develop from intense resistance based workouts.
For example this study took 11 healthy men and women with ages ranging from 18-60 and measured their inflammation response to a arm strength training program for 14 days on a low omega 3 diet then compared it after another 7 days of training but using an omega 3 supplement.
After assessing all the results, the study concluded, “Results from the present study indicate that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation decreases muscle soreness after high-intensity eccentric exercise”.
In a similar study 45 males who were classified as untrained i.e. they had not done any exercise for at least 60 days were split into different groups one using a placebo and the other an omega 3 supplement.
Both groups performed the same exercise program. After twenty-four and forty-eight hours all, the men were assessed for muscle inflammation and the study found that the group-using omega 3 supplementation had a reduced inflammatory response to the exercises than the placebo group.
Although this is only 2 studies it does highlight the potential benefit of consuming more fish oil in your diet for improving your body’s ability to recover quicker from exercise which is especially needed the older we get.
5 Healthier Skin
We all want healthy, younger looking skin right?
Fish oil can make over your appearance, improving overall skin health hair and giving you a better complexion.
There is also research supporting that fish oil supplementation may help with mild to severe acne.
On a more serious note evidence from a study in the UK that taking increased levels of fish oils either in the diet or as a supplement may help to increasing your immunity to getting skin cancer.
In tandem with increasing omega 3 fats through foods such as fish or a good quality supplement, reduce consumption of omega 6 fats found in processed foods and vegetable oils like soy, canola and safflower.
In an ideal world, you want your omega 3 to omega 6 ratios as close to equal as possible.
6. Improved Body Composition and Weight Loss
Getting adequate fish oil in your diet may help you gain muscle and lose body fat, by reducing the secretion of cortisol, decreasing inflammation and helping you recover quickly from exercise All factors that will contribute to improving your body composition.
Another important factor in losing weight is having good insulin sensitivity. If your body is not very insulin sensitive losing fat is going to be difficult as you have more potential for blood sugar to be stored as fat rather than absorbed as an energy source.
One group took four capsules of an omega 3 supplement each day while another group took a placebo. After 12 weeks, the trial concluded that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation did have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity.
Now insulin sensitivity will depend on other factors such as amount of lean muscle mass, exercise, genetics and overall diet but adding extra omega 3 into your diet could be a real help in improving this issue.
Losing weight and improving body composition is reliant on many elements but having a good level of omega 3 fats in your weekly diet will certainly be of benefit to you in achieving this goal.
How much fish oil should I take?
Although science is still undecided about the actual effectiveness of fish oils there is little doubt that eating more of them in your diet is definitely going to be of benefit to your overall health and performance.
The benefits listed above should be enough motivation to start increasing your fish oil intake. However, when you add the other major health benefits such as reduced risk from disease and better mind function it really does become a no brainer.
That said just consuming lots and lots of omega-3´s is not the easy answer. Consuming too many can lead to other problems so you really need to focus on just getting enough so that your total fat intake that includes saturated and other unsaturated is properly balanced.
Here are some tips to help you achieve this.
Tip 1: Try to aim for two servings of fatty fish per week. Fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines that are high in omega 3 fats EPA and DHA are great choices. Where possible choose wild caught over farmed.
Tip 2 – Eat Organic Meat – If you can eat organic meat such as beef, pork the EPA and DHA levels are going to be a lot higher. Likewise, organic dairy is better for getting good levels of omega 3´s.
Tip 3 – Include more nuts and seeds in your diet. They provide a variety of fats mostly ALA omega 3. Sources such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia and sesame are just a few include in your diet. Get creative with them in your diet but be take care with the amounts you use especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Tip 4 – Go for cold pressed oils. Oils such as olive, almond, sesame and coconut are great sources of omega 3´s. However, be aware that some of them are not suitable for high temperature cooking due to low smoke points. A fat that is oxidised may cause damage to call tissues and DNA if consumed so best to choose oils that have a high smoke point such as avocado, extra light olive oil and .
Tip 5 – Reduce Processed foods. This tip is a given if you want to improve your health and is the easiest way to reduce low quality omega 6 fats from your diet.
Tip 6- Opt for a high quality supplement. – If you decide to use fish oil supplement go for high quality and make sure they guarantee purity and have good levels of omega 3 fats in them. A lot of low-grade fish oil supplements do not contain as much omega 3 fats as stated on the bottle and may be more oxidized and rancid than other brands.
Summing it all up
Getting more fish oil and other essential fatty acids in your diet is a wise move. Not only do they help combat disease and inflammation but can help manage stress, improve body composition and give you better feeling of wellness.
As stated before it is not just about adding more omega-3´s to your diet. Other fats are important too such as saturated and omega-6 but in general, these need reducing to improve the overall balance of your fat intake.
Fish oils and omega-3´s in general are just one part of a healthy lifestyle based around whole natural foods, regular activity and positive lifestyle choices.
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