You have probably heard of it, but do you actually know what it is and why we need it? There are many different omegas. Omega 3, omega 6, omega 9, for example. But I’m going to focus on omega 3 today.
Omega 3’s are an essential fatty acid. This means they cannot be synthesised by the body. There are three types of omega 3, ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the active forms. Our body can use these straight away and no work is needed to be done by our body to use them. ALA is omega 3 in an inactive form. It requires other nutrients for it to be converted into the active forms of EPA and DHA. It has a poor conversation rate, so it is recommended we get omega 3 in the form of EPA and DHA.
There are many benefits to omega 3’s. I have mentioned just a few below-
- Scientific research suggests that higher dietary omega 3 intakes are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk.
- Omega 3 improves cell permeability, therefore making it easier for nutrients to go into the cells, and toxins to move out of the cells.
- Studies indicate that omega 3 consumption decreases the risk of coronary heart disease mortality, including heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.
- Omega 3’s are very anti-inflammatory.
- DHA is needed for brain health. Low DHA may be a risk factor for Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia.
- Studies suggest omega 3 supplementation may be beneficial, adjacent to therapy, in depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
So where do you get them from?
If you’re a vegetarian, it is very difficult to get EPA and DHA. You can get it from algae, so you can supplement it in that form. However, in food, you can only get it in the ALA form in chia seeds and flaxseeds. This means your body has to convert it. If you have been vegan or vegetarian your whole life, your body is much more efficient at converting it into EPA and DHA, so could just use flaxseed oil. However, if you have only recently become vegan or vegetarian, you will be a poor converter, and therefore need to supplement EPA and DHA.
If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, oily fish is the best place to get your omega 3’s. This is already in the EPA and DHA form, so your body doesn’t have to work hard to use it. Make sure you always opt for wild alaskan fish, to reduce the mercury and to avoid farmed fish. Fish high in omega 3’s include salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.
If you were to supplement in omega 3, make sure it is a good quality brand, that uses small, wild fish. It should also be sold in a dark bottle and they should be kept in the fridge. Please consult your doctor before taking them if you are on any medications.
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