The Many Health Benefits of Bison: Part 3 – Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We hope you’ve been digging our series on the health benefits of bison so far. We know we’ve been getting pretty science-y with them, but nothing makes a meal taste better than knowing it’s also doing your body a whole lot of good – at least in our opinion! If you’re just tuning in now, it’s worth checking out the previous posts on iron and protein when you’ve got a few minutes. For now, let’s get to Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which bison meat is also chock full of!
What is an Omaga-3 Fatty Acid anyway?
Great question! Before we dive into why Omega-3 Fatty Acids are so great, it would probably help to know what they are. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are healthy, polyunsaturated fats, which are essential to normal physiological functions. Translation? Omega-3 Fats are small, but mighty when it comes to keeping our body and its systems running properly.
There are 3 main kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are most often found in seafood while ALA is found in vegetable oils, leafy greens, some nuts and animal fat – especially that of grassfed animals like our bison. (Harvard Chan School of Public Health)
The Benefits of Omega-3 Fats
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s why we need them:
- Fatty acids, like Omega-3s, are great for maintaining a strong heart and keeping hormone levels in balance (Montagu, 2015, 135)
- The presence of Omega-3s in the body increase fat breakdown, which means if you have Omega-3s in your system, you will burn more fat (Berardi & Andrews, 2015, 38)
- They also keep you beautiful from the inside out: Omega-3s help cells maintain healthy membranes by keeping water and nutrients inside cells
- Omega-3 fats protect the heart, promote cardiovascular function, manage cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and have anti-inflammatory effects on the body
How many Omega-3s should I be eating?
It’s obvious that we need Omega-3s in order to be healthy, but like with most diet-related things, some people need more than others for optimal results. Males need about 1.6 grams a day, while females need about 1.1 grams (National Institute of Health). However, athletes with acute injuries need to add more Omega-3s to their daily diet since their anti-inflammatory effects promote healing in the body.
Other individuals who need higher amounts of Omega-3s include diabetics and heart attack survivors. Omega-3s have actually been shown to increase survival rates after suffering a heart attack!
If you suffer from arthritis, your doctor may recommend an increase in Omega-3s, because they reduce inflammation in your body.
Important note for all you soon-to-be-mamas: Since most pregnant women are advised to decrease their consumption of large fish during pregnancy to avoid possible pollutants and chemicals, you should make sure to get your Omega-3s from other food sources as they are beneficial for both you and your baby. They improve infant brain development and can reduce postpartum depression. (Berardi & Andrews, 2015, 246).
Where can I find Omega-3s?
Like many other important nutrients, Omega-3s cannot be produced by the body, yet they are essential to our health, so the only other way for us to get them is through our diet. A lot of people get their daily dose via supplements like Omega-3 capsules or fish oils which, depending on the brand, can run you anywhere from $15-$50 a bottle. Some supplements can have unpleasant side effects like the dreaded “fish burps.”
A more efficient (and delicious) way to get them is simply by incorporating Omega-3 rich foods into your diet like wild-caught seafood, certain seeds like flax seeds and chia seeds, egg yolks, and of course, grassfed bison.
Why does it matter if the bison is grassfed? Well, in the case of Omega-3s, it matters for two very important reasons. First, the green leaves of the grass naturally contain Omega-3s, so when bison eat these plants, they essentially become a rich source of Omega-3s themselves. Remember the age-old saying “you are what you eat?” Well, the same applies to our animals!
Second, when feedlot animals are fed grain, the levels of Omega-3s dramatically decrease. This means meat from these animals is high in Omega-6s, which is inflammatory by nature. Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing – the immune system uses it as a tool to protect the body, but the key is that we need Omega-3s and Omega-6s to be balanced.
Luckily, grassfed bison naturally balances out the two for you so you don’t even have to think twice about it, creating a favorable ratio of 4:1 (Omega-6 to Omega-3). Check out this easy recipe for bison burgerswith portobello mushroom buns as an easy way to add more Omega-3s to your diet this grilling season.