Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential unsaturated fatty acid, meaning that the human body cannot synthesize it, but it is also necessary for human health. This means you need to get Omega-3s either through food or supplementation. But before we go into where you can get the best Omega-3s, let’s take a step back and understand why you need them.
Why we need Omega-3s
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3s balance out the potentially harmful effects of Omega-6 fatty acids. Interestingly enough, Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to your diet, like Omega-3s, but they should be kept in a good ratio to Omega-3s. This is because Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation, while Omega-3s reduce inflammation.
By reducing inflammation, Omega-3 consumption helps lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Clinical evidence shows that diets higher in omega-3s can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and help stem cognitive decline in older populations.
Where to find Omega-3s
So what is the best source for omega-3s? According to a US News interview with a professor at the Mayo Clinic, the body needs to convert short-chain omega-3s (ALA) to long-chain types (EPA & DHA) in order to make use of it. US News notes that the jury is still out in the scientific community as to the benefits of ALA, but the conversion is extremely inefficient, so balancing the unknown and known, the clinical studies seem to point to EPA & DHA being the route to take when making a decision on which to attempt to consume more of.
Given the above, where can you get dietary omega-3s? ALA is found in soybeans, flax, canola, hemp and chia. You’ll note that there are many products on the market that claim to have added omega-3s which come from having added flax or any of the other plant sources. This is because plant sources are easier to add to products without negatively impacting taste. Many products with DHA sourced omega-3s tend to have a fish flavor which can be enhanced the longer the product sits either in the store or at a consumer’s home.
The World Health Organization recommends adults consumer 250mg-2,000mg of DHA per day. The FDA does not have a recommendation on daily dosage. DHA is found in salmon, tuna, anchovies and other fish sources. DHA can also be found in marine algae.This option is excellent for vegetarians, pregnant woman and children.
I’m sold – which one should I buy?
Which option you choose, really depends on what is important to you. Lifes’sDHA is an algae source that has a complete product line from infants to adults. This makes it so you don’t have to worry about “fish burps” or other side effects from fish oil pills. Fish oil pills are another source, but I’d recommend enteric coated if that’s the way you go – that coating also limits the “fish burps.”
As with all supplements, the best thing to do is to discuss your diet with your doctor. This can help figure out how many omega-6s your getting in your diet vs. the omega-3s. Keeping the optimum ratio is important for optimum health and your healthcare provider can provide that insight.
Chia seeds have an extremely high percentage of their weight in ALA. These seeds have become extremely popular in health food circles recently as a great source of ALA, fiber and a wide array of minerals. And yes, these are the very same seeds that give you the Chia Pet.