Posted by Nicole on February 5, 2014

Food and Mood, Part 2: Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids usually refer to ALA, which is found in plants, and EPA and DHA, which are found in fish and eggs. These acids are one of the most important to include in your diet, as they have several positive benefits for both your ability to process and remember information, and your ability to regulate your mood.

The best way to get Omega-3s in your diet is to actually include the foods that are rich in them. Fish, flax seed, and egg all have varying amounts of the acid, and can be simple to add into any meal. For this article, however, we're going to mainly look at how Omega-3s can help to improve your mood and ward off depression.

Happy as a Clam

A study by a scholar from the University of Pittsburgh showed some interesting information about people around the age of 45 who were impulsive, angry, or cynical; they were more likely to have low levels of EPA. The research showed that people who have higher levels of Omega-3s in their blood work were less inclined to be depressed, and less likely to be impulsive as well. Here are a few reasons why that might be:

  • Brains that have more omega-3 fatty acids in them have an easier time making connections between nerves, which could lead to a higher sense of comfort and dexterity.

  • Lower levels of omega-3s, on the other hand, has been connected with poor memory and cognition. It's also been shown that omega-3s can help to support the development of a child's brain during pregnancy.

  • An increase in omega-3's can also support cardiovascular health, which can affect blood pressure. High blood pressure is often associated with both being caused by, and causing, stress in an individual, along with a tendency to become easily agitated.

Omega-3 Supplements and Diets

With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that most doctors will recommend that you increase your omega-3 intake. Supplemental Omega-3s can do wonders when incorporated into your diet, although they are still no replacement for adding foods that are high in omega-3s naturally. Likewise, cutting back on omega-6s, which are responsible for a hardening of cells, can help as well. The key is to balance your “leaves,” which are omega-3s, with your “seeds and grains,” which are your omega-6s.

Another reason Omega-3s improve mood is their ability to actually improve your cognitive abilities. Whenever you don't understand a matter fully, or remember everything, it can lead to frustration or flying off the handle unnecessarily. More omega-3s in your diet can lead to a clearer state of mind, and more focus whenever you've got to handle the task at hand. While they aren't a magical brain boost as some would claim, Omega-3s do have an important role to play in our physical, and mental, well being.