The ABCs of Omega-3s

Anyone who’s ever been remotely concerned about heart health has surely heard about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential polyunsaturated fats, which the body requires but cannot produce, have been shown to have a wide range of benefits, such as supporting healthy blood vessels and supporting heart, brain and eye health. Below, a few more facts on these essential fats:

A is for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This type of omega-3 is found in plant sources such as walnuts, canola and soybean oils, and flaxseeds. One hint about flax: To get the most omegas out of the seeds, buy them whole and then grind them before sprinkling on cereal, yogurt or even your salad.


B is for Buttery Spread. Just 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance® Omega-3 Buttery Spread provides 20 percent of the recommended 1,600 mg daily value for ALA as well as 20 percent of the 160 mg daily value for DHA/EPA, two types you’ll learn about later.

C is for Cooking Oil. Smart Balance® Cooking Oil’s blend of canola, olive, and soybean oils packs 1,140 mg of ALAs in each tablespoon. That’s less than 500 mg shy of the total daily recommended value!

D and E are for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These two forms of omega-3s are found in seafood, especially fatty fish including salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and shellfish. They’re also two types most strongly associated with health benefits. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that people eat fish twice a week. People with documented heart disease are generally advised to consume 1g of DHA/EPA per day, preferably from food, according to the AHA. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement—including fish oil.

F is for fortification. The Smart Balance® brand makes it easy for you to sneak more omega-3s into your diet, even if you’re not a fish lover. You’ll find them in the milks, buttery spreads, sour creams, peanut butters, mayo and more.

G is for “Good for you!” If you’re reading this article, you’re already doing right by your heart.

H is for high doses. As in, watch out for them. Just like anything else, it is possible to get too much a good thing. High doses of DHA/EPA—anything over 3g a day, according to the American Heart Association—may increase the risk of bleeding in some people. In addition, people with high blood pressure or heart-related problems should consult a doctor before taking omega-3 supplements. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to avoid taking fish oil supplements unless you’re under the supervision of a doctor. Better yet, get your essentials from foods instead. Even using foods with added omega-3s, it’s hard to overload from those sources alone.

And jumping ahead…

O is for outstanding omegas! These fats are essential for a reason: They support healthy cell function, so give them a chance to do their handiwork, then sit back and reap the rewards. To learn more about omega-3s, click here.

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