Why omega-3 fats are good for your health

‘Fat’ is a term which has been demonised by society and the media…but is it all bad? In reality, while consuming too much fat is bad for your health, essential fatty acids called omega03s are actually extremely beneficial for your body, health and overall wellbeing.

Sound counterintuitive?

Omega-3 fats are a form of polyunsaturated fat, which help prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure, enhance mental health, and reduce inflammation in your body and joints, amongst other things.

What is an omega-3 fatty acid?

Omega-3s are fats (or fatty acids) your body needs to function efficiently.

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA, EPA and ALA. Studies have proven there to be significant health benefits from consuming DHA and EPA forms of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily, cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, herring, canned salmon and tuna, and fish oil supplements.

The beneficial effects of ALA aren’t as well documented. ALA is found in some nuts, pumpkin seeds and certain vegetable oils such as canola, flaxseed and olive oil. Your body also converts ALA into DHA and EPA.

Good for the body and the soul

Omega-3 fat is actually fantastic for promoting heart health. Over the past decade, several major studies (including the U.S. Physicians’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study) have shown regular consumption of omega-3 fats significantly improves heart health and reduces your risk of heart complications.

In the Physicians’ Study, men with the lowest levels of omega-3 in their blood were 81% more likely to die of sudden heart failure than those with the highest levels of omega-3 in their blood.

Omega-3 fats help to keep your heart healthy by:

  • Lowering triglyceride levels (fats found in your blood, and the main type of stored fat in your body)
  • Reducing hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Reducing your risk of coronary heart disease

Omega-3s also benefit the rest of your body. For example, they can lessen the severity of inflammatory disorders such as arthritis or painful menstrual periods, and may even help those with osteoporosis.

Omega-3s have also been found to have a positive effect on mental health. Several recent studies have observed a higher incidence of depression among people who consume little or no omega-3 fats.

“Getting fat” can help you lose weight!

Not only are omega-3 fats good for you, they can also support weight loss.

Clinical studies show people who follow a weight loss program which incorporates exercise and a low-fat diet tend to have better control over their blood sugar and cholesterol levels when oily fish is regularly included in their diets.

On the other hand, people suffering from anorexia nervosa generally also have an extremely low intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Many experts now use treatment programs that prioritise omega-3s to help avoid deficiencies and improve mental health.

How much Omega-3 should you include in your diet?

Experts recommend you consume at least 500mg of omega-3 per day. Unfortunately, many Australians only consume about half of this amount.

The best way to increase your omega-3 intake is to make fish, especially the oily fish listed above, part of your balanced diet.

Be aware, though, that some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury and other nasties, making them unsuitable choices for women who are planning to become pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or for young children. For more information on mercury in fish, check out our Food Guide for Pregnancy.

If you’re considering taking omega-3 or fish oil supplements, consult your GP beforehand so they can assess whether supplements are suitable for your circumstances, and advise you on any potential side effects.

Fats and figures

Although the benefits of omega-3 fats are numerous, Australians generally eat too much fat, particularly in the form of saturated and trans fats. Calories from fats should only make up 20% to 30% of your daily calorie intake, and only 10% of your total calories should be sourced from saturated or trans fats.

Type of Fat Found in foods such as: Recommended daily intake
Saturated or trans fats Full cream milk, cheese, butter, cream, fatty meats and sausages, and processed foods 10% or less of total calories
Monounsaturated fat Canola and olive oils, canola margarine, peanuts, avocados 10 to 15% of total calories
Polyunsaturated fat Canola oil and margarine, fish, other omega-3 foods listed above 10% or less of total calorie


This article was compiled in consultation with nutrition experts and in reference to the following sources:

Mayo Clinic, ‘Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid’

University of Maryland Medical Center, ‘Omega-3 fatty acids’

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