Omega-3 Fatty Acids Emerge in the Treatment of Mood Disorders


Legendary Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The use of food as medicine dates back to ancient times. Currently, a lot of emphasis is given to the importance of eating a healthy diet to improve overall health. Pure food has always provided us with powerful nutrients to fight disease. Some of those nutrients are the omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats essential for humans because our bodies cannot make them; therefore, they need to be obtained through foods. There are two types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the second type includes eicosapentaenoic acids (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Researchers have long known the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Most commonly known are the advantages of omega-3s in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, inflammation and brain health. But the benefits of omega-3s extend far beyond that. More recently, a lot of attention has been given to the effect that omega-3s may have in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.

In a study published this year in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Journal, researchers found lower inflammation and anxiety symptoms in a group of medical students supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.

Fortunately, nature provides us with plenty of options to get the much-needed omega-3s.

ALA fatty acids can be found in most vegetable oils such as canola, flaxseed, soybean and hemp oils, walnuts, algae and also some greens, such as kale and spinach. EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are mainly found in fatty fish and eggs.

Those considering a vegetarian or vegan diet need not to worry, since the human body makes EPA and DHA from plant derived ALA fatty acids. It is advisable for people following a plant-based diet to always discuss with their doctors if supplementation would be adequate and what the best options would be.

Looking at the mixed results obtained, it is still unclear the amounts needed for therapeutic purposes of anxiety and mood disorders. Thus, individuals currently taking antidepressants or any other mood enhancing medications may benefit from increasing omega-3s as a complement to conventional medical therapy. It is recommended to consult a healthcare provider about the best treatment options.

However, knowing the overall health benefits of these fats, it would be wise to make omega-3-rich foods part of the diet and include salmon, mackerel or herring, among other fatty fish. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends broiling or grilling as the preferred cooking methods for fish, as the high temperatures and extra fat in frying can add excess calories and may interfere with the overall quality of the meal.

 Walnut Crusted Salmon: Get Your Omega-3s the Delicious Way

 Ingredients Yields: 4

4 4-oz salmon fillets

½ cup unsalted walnuts, lightly crushed (use a food processor or place walnuts in Ziploc bag and lightly crush using a kitchen mallet)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ Tbsp yellow mustard

½ tsp dried dill weed

Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1

Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pat-dry salmon and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Place salmon on a cooking sheet previously lined and coated with cooking spray.

Step 2

Mix mustard and dill and lightly coat salmon tops with this mixture.

Press walnuts onto salmon.

Drizzle olive oil over salmon.

Step 3

Bake for 12 to15 minutes or until salmon looks opaque, flakes with a fork and walnuts are golden brown.

Serve over rice, pasta, sautéed spinach or quinoa.

Suellen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in the Rochester, NY area.  Connect with her at or follow her on Instagram at @Suellen_Pineda


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