There has been a lot of buzz over the years about omega-3 fatty acids, but what about them makes them so special?
Omega-3’s are essential to human health, but unfortunately, our bodies cannot make them naturally. Instead, we must obtain them through food or supplements. Fish is usually the first food that everyone thinks about, but there can be a lot of contaminants in fish (have you seen the plastic in our beautiful oceans?) making it a much less healthy option. The great news is that there are fantastic plant-based sources of omega 3's. Consuming ¼ cup of walnuts provides almost a whopping extra 1,000mg of omega-3’s compared to a 3-ounce serving of salmon (not to mention they are vegan-friendly). Some other great vegan sources of omega-3’s are ground flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
Next question – what exactly is an omega-3? Without turning this into a full-on biochemistry lecture, omega-3 fatty acid describes where the double bond is a carbon chain. This special double bond makes this fatty acid “polyunsaturated” - these are considered much healthier than saturated fats (think butter, lard, and animal fat) and are what nutritionist define as “heart healthy.” Why heart health? Omega-3’s have been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular events (such as stroke and even death). They can also prevent the onset of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), lower blood pressure, decrease triglyceride levels, and slow down the development of atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries). Additionally, the Journal of the American Heart Association found an inverse relationship of walnut (as well as olive oil) consumption and all-cause mortality, whereas fish intake only reduced cardiac-related deaths.
Sure, omega-3’s are heart healthy, but did you know they are BRAIN HEALTHY too?! The Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a walnut-enriched diet helped reduce brain cell inflammation, increase the growth of nerve issue, and improve overall cognitive function, especially in memory and speed. Additionally, walnuts may help improve mood and protective effects against some cognitive disorders. A study consisting of 64 male college students found an association between mood improvement and walnut supplementation, which the researchers think may be due to the rich omega-3 content in this superfood.
Indeed, walnuts and omega-3’s go perfectly together just as much as chocolate and…well anything, including walnuts! If you are looking for a sweet way of getting those heart and brain healthy benefits, try nicobella organic’s Omega Munch. Decadent 75% fair-trade, dark chocolate for amazing antioxidant properties, and a mix of organic ground flax and lightly toasted walnuts help provide half of your daily serving of omega-3’s per day! Each serving also provides 3 grams of fiber and plant-based protein, making the Omega Munch a perfect and yummy source of lots of different nutrients.
Sala-Vila A, Guasch-Ferré M, Hu F, et al. Dietary α‐linolenic acid, marine ω‐3 fatty acids, and mortality in a population with high fish consumption: findings from the PREvención con Dieta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) study. JAHA. 2016;5:e002543. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.115.002543
Pribis P. Effects of walnut consumption on mood in young adults—a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2016 Nov; 8(11): 668. 10.3390/nu8110668
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Anthony Chiu is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a double degree in Dietetics and Consumer Foods. He is currently a dietetic intern at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and is also working on his masters in nutrition; he would love a dream that combines his passion for helping people, food, and digital media. Still a child at heart, Anthony loves to stay up late to play video games, eating ice cream and chocolate when his parents aren’t looking, and running till the sun goes down.