Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Therefore, in order to maintain adequate levels we must consume them from food or supplements.
We need omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated fats, to help build cell membranes in the brain and make hormones that regulate inflammation, contraction and relaxation of artery walls and help prevent blood clotting. Consequently, they are associated with protecting us against heart disease and aiding healthy brain and eye development.
The good news is that omega-3 fatty acids are found in a variety of foods. Fish: such as salmon, tuna, and trout; walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds and leafy green vegetables all contain the essential nutrient.
There are three types of omega–3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are also known as the marine omega-3 because they are found primarily in fish, while ALA is referred to as the plant omega-3 since it is found almost exclusively in nuts and vegetables.
EPA and DHA are the most biologically active and, as a result, are considered the most valuable. ALA is still beneficial, but the body must convert it to EPA or DHA before it can provide any sort of benefits. Therefore, obtaining omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish is considered the gold standard.
Research indicates that the best way to obtain the protective benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is through food sources, not supplements. But if you cannot eat enough fish, or choose not to, you can still reap the benefits by making sure you include plenty of plant omega-3 sources in your diet.
There is no recommended daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids, but the American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults consume 500 milligrams per day, which works out to at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week.
Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal