By guest contributor Barb Swanson
(author of Beyond Foods: The Handbook of Functional Nutrition)
Are you looking for a way to keep your heart happy and healthy? Look no further than essential fatty acids! These small but powerful compounds might not be as well-known as some other heart-healthy nutrients, but trust us, they are just as important.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
As you already know, there are numerous different types of fats out there, some of which can be harmful for your health and others that are vital to the way your body functions. Essential fatty acids are one of the classes of fats that are important for maintaining your health. What sets them apart from other types of fats is the fact that your body cannot make these fatty acids on its own—they must be retrieved from the foods you consume. These essential types of fats support a variety of physiological functions such as growth and development, cognitive ability, and cardiovascular function.
Essential Fatty Acids For Heart Health
So, what are the benefits of essential fatty acids for your heart health? There are several ways that these unsaturated fats support your cardiovascular and heart health.
Slows Plaque Buildup In The Heart
Your arteries may develop plaque, which is primarily composed of fat, cholesterol, and calcium. This can restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body and make it more difficult for your heart to do its job. Essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, have been found to help reduce this build up so that blood can flow more freely through your arteries.
Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
There are 2 common types of blood pressure—systolic pressure in the arteries during heart muscle contraction and diastolic blood pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. Anything that affects both processes can cause a spike in blood pressure and affect your heart health. Studies show that diets that include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help your body achieve and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Helps Lower Triglyceride Levels
One of the most researched benefits of essential fatty acids for heart health is the impact they have on your body’s triglyceride levels. As you’re well aware, having triglycerides levels that are too high can lead to various concerns when it comes to your heart health, which is why keeping them at healthy levels is of the utmost importance. Researchers have found that one of the most impactful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is their ability to help regulate triglyceride levels, which helps to keep your heart strong and healthy.
Best Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While all essential fatty acids are considered essential to your overall health, omega-3s are the shining stars when it comes to heart health, and they can be the most difficult to get from your diet. If you’re looking to increase your intake of omega-3s, then here are some foods to consider adding to your diet.
1. Fatty fish: Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and salmon. To make sure your body is getting adequate amounts of omega-3, it is often advised to consume fatty fish as least twice a week.
2. Chia Seeds: A great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids is chia seeds. They can be incorporated into baked items, sprinkled on yogurt or cereal, or added to smoothies.
3. Flaxseeds: Another plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are another great addition to smoothies, baked goods, cereal, or yogurt.
4. Walnuts: Nuts and seeds in general tend to be a good source of essential fatty acids, but walnuts in particular are fantastic if you’re looking for omega-3s. Keep them on hand to enjoy as a snack or add them to your favorite salad.
5. Seafood: If you enjoy seafood, oysters, clams, mussels, and crab are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Blue-green algae: Certain strains of blue-green algae such as spirulina, chlorella, and aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) are unique sources of essential fatty acids including omega-3s, and they are often available in supplement form which makes them easy to add to your daily routine.
Additional Ways to Support a Healthy Heart
As you can see, adding essential fatty acids to your diet can go a long way in helping to support and protect your heart health, but that isn’t the only step you can take. Here are a few other ways you can keep your heart as strong and healthy as possible.
- Exercise: To aid in the breakdown of lipids, control blood pressure, and help your heart beat, it’s important to maintain an active lifestyle. Aim to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes every day engaging in physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or working out at the gym.
- Take Supplements: If you are worried you aren’t getting enough omega-3s from your diet, consider supplements that can help. Fish oil is a common go-to here, but if you are looking for a vegan-friendly option, consider a supplement made from seaweed or blue-green algae instead.
- Prioritize Rest: Yes, your body needs plenty of rest and relaxation in order to keep your heart healthy. Make it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, and find enjoyable activities to help your body relax and relieve stress, such as yoga or meditation.
++++ Copyright ++++
Unless otherwise attributed, all material is written and edited by Madalyn Ward, DVM. Copyright (c) 2021 HolisticHorsekeeping.com and Madalyn Ward, DVM. All rights reserved.
If you like the material in this newsletter please let your friends know about it. You may reprint material in other electronic or print publications provided the above copyright notice and a link to http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com is included in the credits.
When you forward this material, please send the entire newsletter. Thanks!
Please also enjoy all of Dr. Ward’s web resources: