If you’re not a fan of taking supplements, these foods are your best bet to getting more Omega-3 from your diet
If you’re struggling with brittle nails, breakage-prone hair and irritated skin, an Omega-3 deficiency might be the cause. Omega-3 supplements, usually from fish oil, are usually front and centre in the pharmacy aisle, and come with the promise of reversing heart damage, amping up hair health and supporting supple, glowing skin. We spoke to two experts about what Omega-3 can actually do for your skin and hair, and how you can add it to your daily diet.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat the body cannot make on its own. They are an essential fat, which means they are needed to survive. We get the omega-3 fatty acids we need from the foods we eat.
Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids
How an Omega-3 rich diet can make your skin and hair healthier?
Essential fatty acids are the building blocks for the body. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats produce hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which affect immunity and inflammation in the body. The former help to suppress inflammation, immune responses and blood clotting, while the later are essential for healthy skin, but can cause inflammation and allergic responses.
Omega-3 is also known to reduce anxiety, triggering a chemical response in the body that makes skin more sensitive and reactive. It increases serotonin, which helps to cope with anxiety and depression, eventually leading us to better skin. Since we are more tipped towards vegetable and grain oils, we produce more Omega-6. This is why most doctors suggest only supplementing the diet with Omega-3.
Composed of three fats, namely ALA, EPA and DHA, Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that has to be obtained through dietary sources as it cannot be sufficiently produced by the body.
EPA and DHA are long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids that both come from animal sources—EPA regulates oil production to boost hydration and prevent acne, and delays the skin’s ageing process to keep wrinkles at bay; while DHA supports eye health and brain function, helping to fight depression and other mental illnesses. ALA, on the other hand, is a short-chain Omega-3 fatty acid derived from plant sources, that gets converted to EPA and DHA in small quantities.
Since the most well-known source is fatty fish, it can be challenging for vegans, vegetarians or even those who simply dislike fish to meet their Omega-3 needs. That’s why they need to take note and consciously include plant-based options that are rich in fatty acids. Omega-3 maintains the skin’s barrier function and promotes the effective absorption of water, which results in softer, more hydrated and eventually, healthier skin. Similarly, these also protect the hair shaft’s hydro-lipid layer, which prevents dull, dry and brittle strands that are caused due to exposure to synthetic chemicals, heat styling and the sun.
The best Omega-3 rich foods to include in your diet
Cold-water fishes such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are rich sources of Omega-3, and can help combat acne and rosacea by reducing inflammation in the skin. Even those with dry skin should include these in their daily diet to keep their skin hydrated and nourished from within. Steamed, grilled or sautéed, these make for great dinner options. Also, a good source of protein, Vitamin E and zinc, fatty fish is a skincare superfood that addresses a sallow, dull complexion or falling strands.
If you can’t have one or two servings of fatty fish in your diet each week, then plant-based flaxseed oil is the next best thing to supplement your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Flaxseed or linseed oil is extremely popular, especially amongst vegetarians and vegans. The Omega-3 in flaxseeds boosts collagen production to keep skin smooth and elastic. And its fibre-like compounds, called lignans, are potent antioxidants that protect the skin from sun damage, and brighten and lighten the complexion as well.
Flaxseed has become more and more popular as a superfood recently, with its high fiber content and omega-3 powers, thought to be helpful in fighting heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. This is one of best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and is also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids to promote decreased total LDL cholesterol and increased HDL. Flaxseed oil also packs anti-inflammatory properties, keeping the body primed to ward off disease.
Pro tip: Store flaxseed oil in the refrigerator because it oxidizes easily. It’s not suitable for cooking because of the low smoke-point, so toss with a salad dressing or try a drizzle over quinoa.
Other uses: Sort of like flaxseed, the oil can be used as a mild laxative of sorts. On top of that, it’s also a solid option for moisturizing skin. You may also find this oil in various substances, like varnishes and paints, as a waterproofing agent.
Flax seeds oil
This creamy fruit is not only rich in Omega-3, but other vitamins and minerals including Vitamins B, C, E and K, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, potassium, lutein, beta-carotene and anti-ageing antioxidants. This combination makes it a great antidote for hair loss and dull skin. Including avocados regularly in your diet also protects your skin from sun damage, thus preventing wrinkles and other signs of ageing.
You can say that a couple of walnuts a day keep the dermatologist away. Most nuts are chock-full of essential fatty acids, but walnuts have higher levels of Omega-3 than most others. They lock in moisture within the skin cell barrier, making them more resilient against harmful UV rays. Add a few pieces to your salads and cereals, or just have them plain for healthier skin.
These tiny seeds deliver a a huge amount of nutrients with relatively few calories. These seeds rose to stardom in the world of nutrition as they come packed with Omega-3, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle some on your salads and soups as seasoning to add them to your diet, or consume a tsp of flaxseeds soaked in water—this makes it digest more slowly in the body, promoting detoxification. Rich in protein, these help stimulate hair growth and thicken the texture.
Though chia seeds and flaxseeds hold more plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids, sunflower seeds are richer in vitamins and minerals. The best thing about these nutrient-rich but calorie-humble seeds is that they have no cholesterol. Being high in Vitamin E and linoleic acid, they are known for their anti-inflammatory actions. Having low glycemic index, sunflower seeds slow down the nutrient absorption from food and prevent sugar spikes after a meal. Because of their potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits. they help to keep the skin and scalp clear too.
It just sounds spring-like, doesn’t it? But you don’t have to wait; stock up on this oil now. Sunflower oil has a light taste and appearance, which makes it a versatile ingredient and cooking oil. It has a high smoke-point so it stands up well to heat. It can also be used in low-heat cooking methods or in a sauce or as an ingredient in sunflower seed butter. It makes a great all-purpose oil to have in your kitchen. On the benefit side, sunflower oil is higher in antioxidant vitamin E than any other oil, so drizzle this to employ some free-radical-fighting powers.
Pro tip: If using for frying, you can pour oil into a spritzer bottle and spray lightly but evenly onto a pan or skillet.
Other uses: Again, you can keep this one on hand for skincare woes, too. Sunflower oil is sometimes used as a massage oil or as a topical treatment for wounds, psoriasis or arthritis.
Soybean and soy oil has a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E, which makes it a nourishing food for the skin. Include these in your diet, especially if you follow a vegetarian diet, to regenerate skin cells and reduce acne issues, both of which lead to clean and clear skin. Soybean is also a good source of protein, and thus makes for a great hair tonic. Regular intake can add lustre and sheen to dry and damaged hair.
Kind of like soy milk, soybean oil has a neutral taste that blends well with lots of dishes. Soybean oil is often used for frying and for other high-heat methods of cooking. It preserve texture and provide a rich mouthfeel, can have a long shelf life, and are a common ingredient in packaged snacks, frozen foods, and condiments like mayonnaise and margarine.
In addition to healthy polyunsaturated fats and the Vitamin E of other oils, soybean also packs vitamin K, which is important for bone health. But be careful: this is often used in packaged goods with lots of trans fat (the worst kind).
Pro tip: In general, there is a lot of controversy surrounding soy, especially when it comes to GMO sources. So, this particular oil may be best kept off the shopping list unless you are using a non-hydrogenated source clearly labeled as non-GMO.
Other uses: You may see soybean oil as an ingredient in skincare and haircare products; the antioxidants protect against free-radical damage related to sources like pollutants and the sun. Interestingly, it may also be used as an insect repellent.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for optimal health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a person’s nutrition and contribute to the basic health of all cells in the body. Most people get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet to achieve this.
Getting them from whole foods — such as fatty fish two times per week — is the best way to ensure robust omega-3 intake.
A key source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. There is clear evidence that eating more fish can help reduce the chances of a person developing cardiovascular illnesses. However, there has yet to be conclusive evidence that taking omega-3 supplements has similar health benefits.
However, if you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, then you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement. For people deficient in omega-3, this is a cheap and highly effective way to improve health.
You can purchase omega-3 supplements online.
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