The strongest health benefit of omega-3 is related to heart health. This includes helping to maintain a regular heart rhythm, reducing blood pressure, lowering blood fat levels and slowing down the rate at which our arteries get clogged up. Besides these general health benefits, omega-3 is particularly favourable for women for the following reasons:
#1: It can ease menstrual pain
Many women endure abdominal discomfort and cramps every month, a condition known in medical terms as dysmenorrhea. It is caused by strong contractions of the uterus triggered by prostaglandins (chemicals in the body involved with pain and inflammation). Studies have found that omega-3, well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can help to soothe this menstrual pain.
There is some evidence that omega-3 can drive away period blues too. It may help to bring hormonal fluctuations under control and stabilise your mood.
#2: It alleviates rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men and women also appear to suffer more severe symptoms. Several studies on fish oil and rheumatoid arthritis have shown that fish oil significantly decreases joint pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Recent reviews have also found significant improvements in clinical outcomes for rheumatoid arthritis.
However, do discuss with your doctor before taking any fish oil supplements and stopping any medications to ensure coordinated and safe care.
When it comes to fat, omega-3 is one that you should not avoid. Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids to function and the health benefits far exceed your fear of gaining weight. However, omega-3 cannot be made by your body, so you need to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds. If you are not a fish or nuts and seeds eater, omega-3 supplements are available.
In general, omega-3 helps to reduce risks of heart diseases and cancer. However, women benefit more as omega-3 protects against certain conditions that affect only women such as menstrual pain, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
More omega-3 benefits are listed below:
#3: It protects you against osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density over time. Starting off with a lower bone density, women are at a naturally higher risk for osteoporosis than men. And for women with a genetic predisposition, the risk is even higher. Sometimes, a drop in oestrogen during menopause causes the condition.
A systematic review of omega-3 and osteoporosis published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2012 reported significant favourable effects of omega-3 on bone mineral density, however supplementation with calcium at the same time enhanced this effect.
#4: It keeps you in a happy mood
Omega-3 can fend off depression too. Recent reviews found omega-3 supplements to be effective against major depression (but not anxiety disorders). However, researchers are of the opinion that more large-scale, well-controlled studies are needed to find out the optimal dosage as well as the long-term benefits of using omega-3 in treating depression.
#5: It may reduce cancer risk
“There is limited but suggestive epidemiological (study of how disease spreads and can be controlled) evidence that eating fish can reduce the risk of breast and rectal cancer. This is assumed to be due to the increased omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in the diet,” says Ms Kellie Kong, Dietitian from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.
However, there is not enough evidence to conclude for sure that there is a link between omega-3 intake and a reduction in cancer risk. Even so, it makes good sense to include fish in your diet as a healthy alternative to meat.
Add omega-3 to your diet!
Say the word “omega-3” and salmon comes to mind. Well, you don’t have to eat the same fish three times a week. The foods listed below are also good sources of omega-3:
|Fish & seafood||Wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, scallops, krill|
|Nuts||Walnuts, Brazil nuts and soy nuts|
|Plants||Algae, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, cauliflower, hummus, collard greens|
Ms Kong adds: “If you are overweight, watch out for food such as nuts and oils as they are high in calories and may contribute to excessive weight gain.”
And if you want to be sure you’re getting enough omega-3, you may consider taking a supplement containing fish oil, krill oil or high-DHA algae oil.
However, before you start taking any supplements, always consult your family doctor for specific recommendations or warnings based on your health status as omega supplements can thin your blood and increase the risk of bleeding when taken in high doses.