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Alpha-Linolenic Acid: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition

Alpha-Linolenic Acid: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition

It’s no secret that heart disease is an epidemic in the United States. After all, the American Heart Association reports that nearly half of Americans have heart disease, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it continues to be the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

The good news is there are many ways you can prevent and combat this deadly condition with lifestyle and dietary changes, and this is true no matter what type of diet you follow. In fact, new research published in February 2022 in the journal Advance in Nutrition found evidence that a plant-based omega-3 supports heart health — and as an added bonus, this type of omega-3 also benefits cognitive health.

Study: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition, this analysis examined several different bodies of research on alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a vegetable-based omega-3 fatty acid. The examination spanned the globe, including studies and researchers from the Fatty Acid Research Institute in South Dakota, Penn State University’s Department of Nutritional Services, and several organizations in Spain.

The researchers looked at meta-analyses, observational studies, randomized controlled trials, and epidemiological studies specifically on ALA to determine its effects on heart and brain health. Here’s what they found:

  • Increasing dietary ALA is linked with a 10 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 20 percent lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
  • Dietary ALA can reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
  • Epidemiological studies and trials show ALA’s anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Research points to ALA helping decrease diabetes risk as well.

That’s not all. According to the study authors, “The role of ALA in cognition is in the early stages but shows promising evidence of counteracting cognitive impairment. Much has been learned about the health benefits of ALA and with additional research, we will be better positioned to make strong evidence-based dietary recommendations for the reduction of many chronic diseases.”

All of this evidence points to ALA helping boost both heart and brain health. This isn’t surprising given all the benefits of omega-3s.

How to Get ALA Into Your Diet

Two of the top sources of alpha-linolenic acid are walnuts and flaxseeds. There are innumerable ways to get these into your diet.

You can add walnuts to salads, munch on a handful as a snack, or try some of the following recipes:

  • Raw Walnut Tacos Recipe
  • Raw Brownie Bites Recipe
  • Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Recipe
  • Mango Walnut Spinach Salad Recipe

Flaxseeds can be used in many of the same ways. Here are a few flaxseed recipes to try:

  • Citrus Flax Green Smoothie Recipe
  • No-Bake Coconut Cookies Recipes
  • Black Bean Burger Recipe

Other sources of ALA include:

  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Pecans
  • Sesame oil
  • Brazil nuts

Consume more of these foods, especially nuts and seeds as opposed to some of the oils, to get more plant-based omega-3 into your diet and support heart and cognitive health.

Conclusion

  • Alpha-linolenic acid is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Research published in February 2022 found evidence that ALA supports heart health and shows promise for cognition.
  • Examining a wealth of studies, the authors noted that dietary ALA consumption was linked to a lower risk of heart disease and reduced cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.
  • They also noted ALA’s anti-inflammatory effects to combat chronic disease, its potential in preventing diabetes risk, and even promise for cognitive benefits.
  • To get more of this plant-based omega-3 into your diet, consume walnuts, and flaxseeds, along with other nuts and seeds and their oils.

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