What we put in our bodies can be the key to not only keeping us in top physical shape, but in good emotional health as well. Prioritizing nutrient-packed foods over unhealthy junk and processed food (moderation is everything!) is a must for so many reasons. In particular, consuming omega-3 fatty acids can play a positive role in improving our daily mood and brain health. New research suggests that an omega-3 rich diet can lower the likelihood of constant mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
A recent study published in Bipolar Disorders looked at how a diet that’s high in omega-3s and lower in omega-6 fatty acids could be an effective approach for treating bipolar disorder. They focused on linoleic acids (a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in this study.
Researchers gathered 82 participants diagnosed with bipolar disorder and advised them to eat more EPA and DHA rich foods including flaxseeds, salmon, and tuna as part of their daily diet for 12 weeks. They were also asked to consume less foods with linoleic acids like red meat, processed oil, and eggs. Participants completed surveys twice a day that asked about their irritability, pain, mood, and energy. Blood samples were taken to measure their fatty acid levels and to ensure they maintained the diet throughout the study period.
The biggest takeaway from this study was that consuming more omega-3 rich foods was shown to reduce frequent changes in mood, as well as other symptoms relating to irritability, pain, and energy. “For patients with bipolar disorder, a diet low in omega-6 and rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce day-to-day mood variability which leads to mania and depression,” lead study author, Erika F. H. Saunders, MD, tells Woman’s World.
Saunders acknowledges that the research from this specific study is only applicable to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, previous research has noted how necessary EPA and DHA are for everyone to ward off brain diseases including anxiety and depression. Douglas London, MD, shared with Life Extension Magazine why omega-3s are so necessary for overall brain health. “The human brain is 60 percent fat, and omega-3 fatty acids are the fatty acid of choice for the structure of certain parts of brain cell membranes and brain intercellular nerve connections,” he explained.
London adds that for this reason, low omega-3 levels can negatively affect brain function and lead to cognitive and emotional disorders as time goes on. This deficiency can also cause other symptoms including skin dryness, joint pain, and thinning hair. The National Institutes of Health advises that women 51 and older should aim to consume at least 1.1 grams of omega-3s each day to avoid a deficiency.
Luckily, getting the right amount of omega-3s is easy to do because it’s packed in so many everyday foods! Seafoods such as salmon, cod, and tuna are excellent weeknight dinner options either baked in the oven or sautéed on the stove. You can also get your dose of these fatty acids through flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds, which are delicious for sprinkling over cereal or yogurt. Nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are also omega-3 powerhouses that can help prevent dementia. Plus, grapeseed oil is full of these fatty acids and is a healthier swap to vegetable oil for cooking. Most deliciously, grass-fed butter has high levels of omega-3s.
If you’d rather get omega-3s through a supplement, look for ones like fish oil and krill oil. Make sure you speak with your doctor before supplementing for advice on taking the right amount of capsules each day.
Your body will definitely thank you later on for nourishing it with plenty of omega-3s each day!