Aging is an inevitable part of life, but our lifestyle choices largely determine how we age. One such choice is the type of food we eat. As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and the need for proper nutrition becomes even more important.
One nutrient that has been gaining attention in recent years for its potential benefits in aging gracefully is omega-3 fatty acids. In this article, we will explore the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and how they can contribute to aging gracefully.
What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
According to Medline Plus, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is essential for the body, meaning they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food. Omega-3s and omega-6s are essential fatty acids because the body cannot produce them independently.
Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are rich sources of these fatty acids, as well as dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, walnuts, chia seeds, and certain vegetable oils. These fatty acids are beneficial for the heart due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting properties, ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and to reduce blood pressure.
Additionally, they may also help reduce the risk and symptoms of various chronic conditions, including diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, some cancers, and mental decline.
Benefits of Omega 3 for the Older Adults
Fish oil supplements are commonly included in a healthy diet for individuals of all ages and are highly recommended by medical professionals due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which have various positive effects on the body, including reducing inflammation and benefiting the heart, eyes, and brain. Furthermore, older adults may experience additional advantages from taking fish oil supplements, such as,
1. Healthy Heart
Omega 3 fatty acids offer significant advantages in minimizing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and maintaining the heart’s optimal performance. They are particularly advantageous for older individuals, who face a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega 3 fatty acids decrease the oxidative pressure on the heart, resulting in a lower chance of cardiovascular disease.
2. Healthy Vision
Impaired vision due to aging is a significant concern for older individuals. The consumption of Omega 3 by older adults can enhance their visual abilities because it is a crucial structural element of the retina. This means that Omega 3 is highly advantageous for maintaining the eye health of older adults.
3. Preventing Inflammation
As one ages, the body experiences increased inflammation, but consuming omega-3 can aid in reducing this inflammation because it possesses antioxidant properties. These antioxidants counteract the inflammation that results from free radicals in the body, thereby decreasing overall inflammation.
4. Strong Bones & Joints
The advantages of Omega 3 fatty acids also extend to treating Inflammatory Arthritis, a common bone and joint ailment among older people. Omega 3 fatty acids enhance the suppleness of the joints that are impacted by arthritis.
5. Mental Health
Maintaining good mental health is crucial regardless of age, but older adults are particularly susceptible to cognitive disorders and mental health issues, such as Dementia. Omega 3 fatty acids have the potential to significantly decrease the likelihood of these conditions by enhancing the brain’s memory and cognitive functions.
6. Healthy Respiratory System
Omega 3 fatty acids can also improve the respiratory health of the older adults. These acids can alleviate inflammation, relax the respiratory pathways, and make breathing easier, particularly for older individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
How Much Omega-3 Fatty Acids Should Older Adults Consume?
Many older adults consume fish oil to receive its cardiovascular benefits and alleviate inflammation caused by gout and arthritis. Due to the possibility of negative side effects, caution should be exercised when using this supplement.
The recommended daily intake of DHA and EPA, depending on the purpose of the supplementation, ranges from 250 milligrams for overall health improvement to up to 15 grams for high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis, as demonstrated by clinical studies.
Fish oil can be taken for extended periods of time, but consulting a doctor prior to use is recommended to prevent potential adverse reactions, such as nausea, heartburn, and rashes, as excessive amounts may negatively impact the immune system.
The doctor can determine the safety of fish oil consumption for an individual and advise on the appropriate dosage.
Common Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A variety of foods contain Omega-3 fatty acids, and incorporating certain types of fish, nuts, and seeds into your diet can increase your intake of these fatty acids.
It’s suggested by many reputable health organizations that adults should consume a minimum of 250-500mg of EPA and DHA per day, which can be achieved by eating two servings of fatty fish per week.
Additionally, here’s a compilation of 12 foods abundant in Omega-3s.
1. Mackerel ( 4,580 mg per serving)
Mackerel is a small, oily fish that is often smoked and consumed as whole filets in many countries. These fish are highly nutritious, with a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving providing 500% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 and 130% for selenium.
Additionally, mackerel is easy to prepare and has a delicious taste. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving contains 4,580 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Salmon ( 2,150 mg per serving)
Salmon is an incredibly nutrient-rich food that contains a high amount of protein and various nutrients, including vitamin D, selenium, and B vitamins.
Research has shown that individuals who consume fatty fish, such as salmon, on a regular basis have a decreased risk of developing conditions like heart disease, dementia, and depression.
In just a 3.5-ounce serving, salmon contains 2,150 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for overall health.
3. Cod liver oil ( 2,438 mg per serving)
Cod liver oil, which contains 2,438 mg per serving, is considered more of a supplement than a food. It is derived from the livers of cod fish and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins A and D. A single tablespoon of this oil provides 170% and 453% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin D and A, respectively.
Hence, consuming just 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil can fulfill your body’s requirement of these three important nutrients.
It is essential not to exceed the recommended dosage of 1 tablespoon at a time, as excessive consumption of vitamin A can have adverse effects. Each tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 2,438 mg of combined EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Herring ( 2,150 mg per serving)
Herring is a type of fish that is moderate in size and high in oil content. It is typically sold in various forms, such as cold-smoked, pickled, or canned. In England, it is commonly consumed as a breakfast dish called “kippers,” along with eggs.
Herring is a great source of nutrients such as selenium and vitamin B12, with a 3.5-ounce serving containing nearly 100% of the daily value for selenium and 779% of the daily value for vitamin B12.
Additionally, 3.5 ounces of herring contains 2,150 milligrams of EPA and DHA (both omega-3 fatty acids), according to a trusted source.
5. Oysters (329 mg per serving)
Eating shellfish is one of the healthiest dietary choices you can make. Oysters, for example, are an excellent source of zinc, with more of this mineral than any other food on the planet.
A mere 6 raw eastern oysters, which weigh about 3 ounces (or 85 grams), provide 289% of the recommended daily value of zinc and 69% of copper and 567% of vitamin B12.
Oysters can be consumed in various ways, such as an appetizer, snack, or main course, and they are considered a delicacy in many nations.
Additionally, they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, containing 329 mg of EPA and DHA combined in 6 raw eastern oysters, or 391 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
6. Sardines ( 1,463 mg per serving)
Sardines are tiny, oily fish that people often consume as a snack, appetizer, or gourmet food. These fish are highly nutritious, particularly when consumed whole, as they have almost all the essential nutrients the human body requires.
A serving of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of drained sardines provides more than 370% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B12, 24% for vitamin D, and 96% for selenium, according to a reliable source.
In terms of omega-3 content, canned Atlantic sardines contain 1,463 milligrams of EPA and DHA (combined) per cup (149 grams) or 982 milligrams per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
7. Anchovies (411 mg per serving)
Anchovies, which are small, oily fish commonly purchased dried or canned, have a high level of niacin and selenium and a moderate calcium level in boned anchovies. Due to their strong taste, they are typically consumed in small quantities, either as a topping for pizza or salad, or rolled up with capers or stuffed in olives.
Anchovies are also frequently used as a flavoring ingredient in many dishes and sauces, such as Worcestershire sauce, remoulade, and Caesar dressing. They contain 411 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) per 5 anchovies (20 grams), or 2,053 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
8. Caviar (1,046 mg per serving)
Caviar is composed of fish roe or eggs and is generally viewed as a lavish food item. It is commonly used in small amounts as an appetizer, condiment, or flavor enhancer.
Additionally, caviar is a valuable source of choline and contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, with 1,046 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) per tablespoon (16 grams) or 6,540 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
9. Flaxseed (2,350 mg per serving)
These tiny seeds, which come in shades of brown or yellow, are commonly either ground, milled or pressed in order to extract oil. They are considered the most abundant natural source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. For this reason, flaxseed oil is frequently used as a supplement for omega-3s.
Flaxseed is also rich in fiber, magnesium, and other nutrients. Compared to most oily plant seeds, flaxseed has a good omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. A tablespoon (10.3 grams) of whole flaxseed contains 2,350 mg of ALA, while a tablespoon (13.6 grams) of flaxseed oil contains 7,260 mg of ALA.
10. Chia seeds (5,050 mg per serving)
Chia seeds offer a high nutritional value, as they are abundant in several essential nutrients such as manganese, selenium, magnesium, and others. In a single 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds, there are 5 grams of protein that includes all eight crucial amino acids.
Additionally, an ounce of chia seeds contains 5,050 mg of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid.
11. Walnuts (2,570 mg per serving)
Walnuts are a highly nutritious food that is rich in fiber, copper, manganese, vitamin E, and various plant compounds, as cited by a reliable source. It is recommended that the skin of the walnut not be removed since it contains a significant amount of phenol antioxidants, which provide valuable health benefits.
According to the same trusted source, a single ounce (28 grams) of walnuts or approximately 14 walnut halves contains 2,570 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
12. Soybeans (670 mg per serving)
Soybeans are a rich source of vegetable protein and fiber. Additionally, they contain various other essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin K, and folate, as per a reliable source.
Nevertheless, soybeans are also known for their high omega-6 fatty acid content, which, according to some studies, may lead to inflammation if consumed excessively.
In terms of omega-3 fatty acids, dry roasted soybeans contain 670 mg of ALA in a 1/2 cup or 47 grams and 1,440 mg per 3.5 ounces or 100 grams.
As evidenced by abundant omega-3s, numerous whole foods offer multiple health advantages, including protection against inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
If you have a diet that already includes these foods, you may effortlessly meet your omega-3 requirements. Nevertheless, if you consume fewer of these foods and suspect a deficiency in omega-3s, it may be worthwhile to contemplate omega-3 supplements.
Most Recommended Omega-3 Supplements
If you don’t regularly consume fish, taking a fish oil supplement can be a quick and convenient way to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
To help you choose the right omega-3 supplement, you can get started with the following recommendations from Healthline.
- Best overall fish oil supplement:
- Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega
- Best fish oil subscriptions:
- Care/of Fish Oil Wild at Heart
- HUM Nutrition OMG! OMEGA the Great
- Best fish oil supplements for heart health:
- Life Extension Super Omega-3
- Thorne Omega-3 with CoQ10
- Best affordable fish oil supplements:
- Amazon Elements Super Omega-3 with Lemon Flavor
- Nature Made Fish Oil Plus Vitamin D
- Best-tasting fish oil supplement:
- Barlean’s Ideal Omega3 Softgels
- Best liquid fish oil supplement:
- Carlson Labs The Very Finest Fish Oil
- Best softgel fish oil supplements:
- Innovix Labs Triple Strength Omega-3
- Viva Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil
- Best gummy fish oil supplement:
- Nature Made Fish Oil Gummies
- Best cod liver oil:
- Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil
- Best fish oil supplement for kids:
- Barlean’s Omega Pals Chirpin’ Slurpin’ Lemonade Fish Oil
- Best fish oil for pregnancy and breastfeeding:
- Fullwell Fish Oil
How To Choose An Omega-3 Supplement For Yourself
When selecting a fish oil supplement, several factors must be considered. These include;
- The quality of the supplement, which can be assessed by scrutinizing the ingredient list and avoiding products that contain fillers or artificial ingredients.
- Third-party testing and certification by organizations like IFOS, USP, NSF International, or TGA can also help ensure the supplement’s quality.
- It’s also important to pay attention to the dosage of EPA and DHA, as well as the presence of ALA, which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that is converted to EPA and DHA in small quantities.
- It’s worth considering the source of the fish oil, with smaller, sustainably caught fish like sardines and anchovies being preferable due to their lower mercury levels.
- Finally, there are different forms of fish oil supplements, including softgels, liquids, and gummies, so it’s worth considering which type may be most convenient and effective for your needs.
In conclusion, aging gracefully is a goal many of us strive for, and nutrition plays a key role in achieving this goal. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient that has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving brain health, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Adding omega-3 rich foods to your diet or taking supplements can be a simple and effective way to support healthy aging. By incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, you can take a proactive approach to your health and enjoy the benefits of aging gracefully.