A healthy diet is essential during pregnancy, but knowing what to eat is not always easy. Omega 3 fatty acids, which mainly come from fish, are very important nutrients, but they are also easily neglected. What do omega 3 fatty acids do for you in pregnancy? Omega 3 fatty acids are divided into three categories: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These all serve their own purposes, but ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body, although not very effectively.
Sources of omega 3 fatty acids
You can get EPA and DHA through fatty fish, like cod, salmon and mackerel. They are also found in algae, fish oil, and some fortified products, like milk. ALA is also available through plant sources, including walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil. Note that fish from fish farms may not contain omega 3 fatty acids, and that wild fish can be a danger to pregnant women because of increasing amounts of mercury found in the oceans.
The benefits and risks of omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in the neuro-development of a fetus, and some researchers say that they are also a factor in determining birth weight and gestational length. For adults, omega 3 contributes to a healthy heart and a blood pressure that isn't too high.
Are there any risks to consuming products that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids? We already mentioned that many fish contain lots of mercury these days, which is important to take into account during pregnancy. Fish oil, which is a very convenient source of omega 3 fatty acids for many people, can deplete vitamin E levels and lead to an excess in vitamin A and vitamin D. Don't exceed the recommended daily dose if you do take fish oil, and talk to your healthcare provider if you have any doubts.