What is Omega-3 and What Does it Do?

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What is omega-3? And what does omega-3 do for our bodies? In this article we’re looking at the reasons why these fatty acids are considered essential to the health functioning of our bodies.

Omega 3Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important. They are an integral part of cell membrane development throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in the membranes. Omega-3 are essential fats, of which the body cannot conjure on its own, but must source them from food.

But what is omega-3? And what does omega-3 do for our bodies? In this article we’re looking at the reasons why these fatty acids are considered essential to the health functioning of our bodies.

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 are a family of essential fatty acids that play an important role in your body that provides a number of health benefits. There are many types of omega-3’s, but the most important of all of these are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

ALA is an essential fatty acid for good health, but our bodies can’t make it, that is why it relies solely on sourcing it from the food that we eat. ALA is primarily found in plant foods such as nuts and seeds, as well as in vegetable oils.

EPA and DHA omega-3 fats are vital for a healthy heart and good blood circulation. Oily fish, such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, are the best source of EPA and DHA. Other food sources with a smaller amount of EPA and DHA fatty acids are white fish and shell fish.

Omega-3s are nutrients you get from food or supplements that help build and maintain a healthy body. They play a vital role in the cell wall structure each one of us has in our bodies. Not only does the body need these fatty acids to function, but they also deliver some big health benefits too. The nutrient is a source of energy and helps to keep our heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system working to the best of their ability.

What does Omega-3 do?

There are many health benefits to consuming a nutritious amount of omega-3 in your diet or as a supplement. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume omega-3 in their diet are less likely to develop high cholesterol than those who have low omega-3 in their diet. There has been a lot of research to suggest that the omega-3 fats and oils, especially EPA and DHA, can help protect the heart and blood vessels from disease.

Omega-3 fatty acid DHA, is vital for brain health and our retinas. It is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to make sure they are consuming enough omega-3, as it affects the health of the baby.

Omega-3, especially as you get older, is one of the best vitamins for women, as it can help with memory, mood and also reduces blood pressure and inflammation. Because of its ability to reduce inflammation, it may help with other health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and other age-related joint issues.

Other sources of Omega-3

Oily fishAdmittedly, when people are told that their source of omega-3 is oily fish, one’s mind usually thinks of sardines, but are they a good source of omega-3?

Yes, in fact omega-3 fatty acids are higher in oily fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon.

The association of UK Dietitians recommend that you eat 1 portion of oily fish a week, so if you don’t fancy sardines what else is a good source?



Other oily fish high in omega-3 include:

  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Anchovies
  • Caviar

Sources of omega-3 for Vegetarians & Vegans

If you are a vegetarian, vegan or just simply don’t enjoy eating fish, here are some other food sources to get your omega-3:

  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Pastured eggs
  • Hemp seeds
  • Algal oil (what fish get their omega-3 from)
  • Spirulina
  • Chlorella

So don’t worry, you will still be able to get your omega-3 fatty acids whether you like fish or not.

How much omega-3 should I take?

Omega-3 is an essential nutrient, which your body cannot create itself. The Association of UK Dietitians suggest eating at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should aim to be oily, so as to receive the most benefit.

Portion sizes are suggested below:

  • 18 months – 3 years: ¼ – ¾ small fillet or 1 to 3 tablespoons
  • 4 Years – 6 Years: ½ – 1 small fillet or 2 to 4 tablespoons
  • 7 Years – 11 Years: 1 – 1 ½ small fillets or 4 to 6 tablespoons
  • 12 Years – Adults: 140g (5 0x) fresh fish or one small can of oily fish.

Omega 3 capsulesThe guidelines of taking omega-3 supplements vary. However, if you are concerned you’re not receiving enough in your diet, or are considering taking a supplement to ensure you do, you should consider the following:

  • Choose omega-3 rather than fish liver oil
  • Check the vitamin A content. Ideally, you should not have more than a total of 1.5mg of vitamin A a day from food and supplements combined
  • Choose a supplement that provides you with the same daily amount provided by eating one to two portions of fish per week

Always make sure to seek medical advice from a trusted healthcare professional if in doubt.

Now you know what omega-3 is and how important it is to ensure you’re getting the correct levels in your diet. Want to discover more about the benefits of omega-3? Discover the 6 benefits of omega-3 you need to know about next.



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