On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Why Omega-3?

Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Juli Johnson, APRN.  Juli works at the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute, where she is an Integrative Medicine practitioner. Juli is an advanced practice nurse who has been with INTEGRIS since 2000. In 2014, she graduated from the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine program at the University Of Arizona College of Medicine, where she studied under the Integrative Medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D. 

Hi, it's Juli. As I've mentioned before, nutrition plays an important role in healing the mind, body and spirit. It's a key piece of what we call "Integrative Medicine." This food and nutrition component shares the philosophy of all of Integrative Medicine therapy, by again focusing on the whole person. It's not just about eating the recommended number of fruits and veggies each day, or counting calories, or losing weight.

Today I want to talk about omega-3 fatty acids. You can’t turn on the news today without hearing about omega-3 fatty acids. I am a fan! They are definitely a type of fat you don't want to cut back because your body needs these fatty acids to function. We call them essential fats, and your body can't make them from scratch. You must consume them through food or supplements.

I take omega-3 supplements and consume fish in my diet every week. Some people may be concerned about eating fish because it is high in mercury. This is a legitimate concern, but just remember that you want to stay away from large, predatory fish like shark, king mackerel and tilefish that eat smaller fish. Large fish that eat small fish accumulate mercury as they move up the food chain, so don’t forget about small fish, like sardines and anchovies, being wonderful sources of omega-3’s — without any of the risks.

Some of my favorites sources of omega-3 are wild-caught Alaskan salmon and black cod. They are low in mercury, high in omega-3 and sustainable, all three of which are important to me. If you want to find out which fish are sustainable, high in omega-3 and low in mercury, check out the National Geographic’s Sustainable Seafood website.

Remember that you can also get omega-3 from plant sources like flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. I also enjoy walnuts, which are really easy to add to your diet. Only a small handful (a couple of tablespoons a day) will give you a rich source of plant-based omega-3 that can help you when you aren’t eating enough fish.

Last but not least, omega-3 fatty acids are so important that if you are not getting enough through high-quality fish on a regular basis, you may want to consider a supplement. 

Two of the important types of omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. Adults need 600-800mg of DHA and 300-500mg of EPA each day. Children mostly need DHA until they reach the age of 5. According to the American Institute of Medicine, all of us, starting at age 1, need 1200mg total of omega-3 fatty acids per day.

This is important for our brain health, eye health, reduction of inflammation, possible protection against depression, and of course heart health. It's been found that omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve blood vessel function.

Eating fish twice a week is a recommendation from the American Heart Association. Doctors also think omega-3 fatty acids can help control lupus, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play a protective role against cancer, too. Omega-3 fatty acids are vitally important for good health and I hope you will add them to your everyday life.