There are three primary omega-3s: ALA, EPA, and DHA. While they are all considered healthful fats, there are big differences between the three and the function they perform in the body. ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) offers limited health benefits. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) have been studied the most and have many vital, life-sustaining roles.
Consuming enough EPA and DHA omega-3s is important for general health. For example, sufficient intake supports the health of our hearts, brains, eyes, joints, blood vessels and more. They support healthy mood and help us live longer. In particular, omega-3s are critical to normal development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.
EPA and DHA are most easily obtained from consuming cold-water fish — like salmon and tuna — or from taking purified supplements made from fish oil.