The Top Omega-3 Foods To Support Immune Function
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that plays a crucial role in the function of your immune system. Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet will help to optimize your immune system health – and the best way to do this is to eat generous amounts of the top omega-3 foods to support immune function.
An optimized immune system will be maximally effective at protecting you from the harmful pathogens that cause illness. During the winter months, we’re especially vulnerable to colds and flu. Our immune system has more work on its hands when the weather is cold. It’s important (both during winter and year-round) that we supply our immune system with the fuel it needs by eating plenty of omega-3-rich foods.
As well as playing a crucial role in immune system function, omega-3 fatty acids influence overall health in many other ways. Luckily, we can ensure that we have healthy levels of omega-3s in our bodies by eating a diet high in omega-3-rich foods. Fish is a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but vegetarians/vegans need not fear: several plant foods also include large amounts of omega-3s, so eating fish is not essential.
Let’s dive into exactly what omega-3 fatty acids are, discuss their benefits, and find out how they help our immune system. To round things off, we’ll provide some inspiration for your weekly meal plan by listing some of the top omega-3 foods to support immune function!
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fatty acids. Omega-3s play important roles in the functioning of your body and are crucial for immune system health.
There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Found in plant oils such as soybean, flaxseed, and canola oil.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Found in seaweed, algae, fish, and other seafood.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Found in seaweed, algae, fish, and other seafood.
Your body cannot make ALA, so you must consume it through diet. Your body can convert ALA into small amounts of EPA and DHA, but the amounts of EPA and DHA you get from this conversion are not enough for optimal immune system functioning. For this reason, you must also get EPA and DHA from the foods and supplements you consume.
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Where Can You Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods and in dietary supplements. There are six sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Seeds and nuts
You can also get omega-3s from dietary supplements. (GenBoost will be releasing a new immunity supplement range soon – keep your eyes peeled for details!)
How Much Omega-3 Do I Need?
There is no definitive rule about how much of each type of omega-3 you need. Different groups of people need different amounts, during different phases of life.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
- Infants up to the age of one should consume a daily adequate intake (AI) of 0.5 g of total omega-3s. Human milk contains ALA, DHA, and EPA for breastfed infants.
- Adults aged 19+ should consume a daily AI of ALA of 1.6 g for males and 1.1 g for females. There are no specific recommendations for EPA and DHA separately.
- Pregnant people should consume a daily AI of 1.4 g of ALA, and those who are lactating should consume 1.3g of ALA.
Does Omega-3 Help With The Immune System?
The immune system is the system of microorganisms, cells, substances, and organs in your body that protects you from pathogens that cause illness and helps you to heal from injuries. Boosting your immune system is one of the best ways to ensure you’re healthy, energetic, and happy. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in immune system function, and eating a balanced diet, high in omega-3s, is essential for ensuring your immune system works optimally.
How Omega-3s Support Your Body's Immune Response
What is the role of omega-3 in immune function? Omega-3 benefits the immune system in several ways:
- Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids boost macrophage (a type of C cell) activity and can reduce inflammation.
- Research shows that omega-3s enhance the function of B cells. B cells create a protein called an antibody that binds to pathogens and toxins to neutralize them.
- Omega-3s have also been shown to enhance the function of T cells that attack cells that have been infected with a pathogen, such as a virus, and also support B cells in the production of antibodies.
So which omega-3 is best for the immune system? All of the main types of omega-3s are important for immune function, so it’s important to consume a healthy amount of all three.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Omega-3 Deficiency
There are several symptoms that could indicate you are low in omega-3 fatty acids:
- Joint pain: Research suggests that a lack of omega-3s may lead to joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Hair changes: Research suggests that a deficiency in omega-3s may result in hair loss and a lack of hair density.
- Skin irritation and dryness: Research suggests that people who lack omega-3 fatty acids may experience rough and dry skin.
- Depression: Research suggests a strong correlation between omega-3 deficiency and depression.
- Dry eyes: Multiple studies suggest that a lack of omega-3 can result in dry eyes and disturbances in vision.
Can I Get Enough Omega-3 On A Plant-Based Diet?
Yes, you can get sufficient omega-3s on a plant-based diet. Several plant foods, such as walnuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, and rapeseed oil, are great sources of ALA.
Omega-3 Foods To Support Immune Function
Here are 10 omega-3-rich foods to support immune function. Why not try including them in some of your upcoming meals?
- Mackerel: 4,580 mg of EPA and DHA in 100 g
- Salmon: 2,150 mg of EPA and DHA in 100 g
- Herring: 2,150 mg of EPA and DHA in 100 g
- Cod Liver Oil: 2,438 mg of EPA and DHA per tablespoon
- Anchovies: 2,053 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 g
- Oysters: 329 mg of EPA and DHA in 6 raw oysters
- Sardines: 982 mg of EPA and DHA per 100 g
- Walnuts: 2,570 mg of ALA per 28 g (about 14 walnut halves)
- Chia Seeds: 5,050 mg of ALA 28 g
- Flaxseed: 2,350 mg of ALA per tablespoon of whole seeds or 7,260 mg per tablespoon of oil
Featured image by Paul Einerhand on Unsplash
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