Omega-3's are the 'essential' fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). These are known as 'essential' fats because we must consume these in our diet as our bodies are unable to produce them. They are in the membrane of every cell, so they are involved in a whole range of body functions.
You constantly hear about the latest research on omega-3 fats and their health benefits. They are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect, help thin the blood, lower blood pressure and 'bad' cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel elasticity. They have also been associated with potential health benefits in depression, arthritis and eye disease but they need more research in some of these areas.
For developing babies, omega-3 DHA is important for normal growth and development of the brain and vision. Brain development is at its peak during the third trimester of pregnancy, so ensuring that mum eats omega-3 rich fish during pregnancy is beneficial. Fish is also a good source of iodine, which is required for brain development as well. Brain development continues till children are about 2 years old and therefore omega-3 DHA is also important for women who are breastfeeding, to ensure that their baby has enough omega-3 DHA.
Omega-3 fats are mainly found in the oily tissues of certain fish such as salmon and tuna, fresh, frozen or canned. The Ministry of Health recommends an adequate intake for healthy people is 90mg of omega-3 fatty acids for women and 160mg for men. However their suggested target to help reduce the risk of chronic disease is 430mg for women and 610mg for men per day of combined EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids or eating oily fish like salmon and tuna at least twice per week (100g of tuna provides about 200mg of DHA and EPA). Fish also provides other important nutrients such as protein, iodine, zinc, magnesium, selenium, vitamins A, D, E and some B group vitamins.