Whether you are in a bad mood or suffer from depression or "blue days" adding some fish to your diet regularly may be a beneficial part of your treatment plan. Research has extensively shown a strong association of low blood levels of omega three fatty among those who suffer from depression including post partum depression.
We know that omega three fatty acids are important for cardiovascular health and act as an important anti inflammatory, and now researchers are finding evidence that it can also help with our every day mood swings. Recent studies from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that people with lower blood levels of omega-3's were more impulsive and reported more symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Another study reported in the European Neuropsychopharmocal journal found that depressed patients who received omega-3's had a significant decrease in their symptoms of depression. Larger studies are needed to really understand this connection between omega-3's and behavior, but it is also beneficial for overall health to increase omega-3's in your diet.
The American diet is sadly low in these important fats and is skewed towards more omega-6 fatty acids and this may be an important link as to why we suffer from more depression and heart disease in our country. We need to learn more about this connection. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. Keep in mind that even if you don't cook with these oils they are the predominant oils used in almost all packaged foods. The omega 6 to omega-3 ratio in the Western diet is a high 16:1.8 where a healthy ratio is 1:1 to 4:1. You can see how unbalanced our typical diet has become and how making some small changes to your diet may go a long way to help your mood, heart, and even your immune system.
The prominent source of omega-3's are found in fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and anchovies. It's important to note that farm raised salmon has a higher level of omega 6's than wild caught so you do want to choose wild caught fish as much as possible.
Flax seeds are also high in omega-3's, but in the form of ALA which is converted in the body to EPA and then DHA. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3's, but also contain omega-6 making it a good additional source, but shouldn't be used as the only source.
Taking fish oil supplements is another option, but it is important to talk to your healthcare provider or a Registered Dietitian before doing so. Lower quality fish oil supplements found in many stores may contain significant amount of mercury and PCB's. Omega-3 supplementation can also thin the blood which may interfere with some heart medications or cause problems for anyone undergoing surgery.