In this article learn about how:
- Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that our bodies need but can’t produce. They are vital for cardiovascular and brain health and may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plants and some marine algae, can be converted into Omega-3s by our bodies, albeit inefficiently.
- Fish and fish oil are great sources of Omega-3s due to their high content of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- Algae-based EPA and DHA supplements are becoming more popular due to their sustainability compared to fish-derived Omega-3s.
- The best plant-based sources of Omega-3s include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Including them in your diet is an easy way to meet the recommended intake of Omega-3s.
Fats have long been a subject of debate. Are they good? Are they bad? Or is there more nuance to the conversation? Let’s delve deeper into this issue.
Check out the full video on my YouTube Channel.
The Importance of Omega-3s
Have you heard of Omega-3s? They’re a type of essential fatty acid that our bodies need but can’t produce by themselves. We must obtain them from our diets. Omega-3s are vital for our cardiovascular health and brain health, and they may even help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Incredibly important for the health of our eyes, joints, skin, metabolism, and reducing inflammation in our body, Omega-3s have numerous benefits. Yet despite these advantages, most people don’t meet the recommended intake for Omega-3s.
What Are Omega-3s Really?
The starting point for omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants and some marine algae. If we consume plant foods containing ALA, our bodies can convert them into longer chain bioactive forms – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These forms are what our bodies use and are crucial for many aspects of our health.
However, this conversion process in our bodies isn’t super efficient. Only about 5 to 15% of the ALA that we consume actually gets converted into these longer-chain forms of Omega-3. It’s important to note though that ALA is still very beneficial for our health even if we’re not converting it all into these longer chain forms. Also, the foods containing them are also incredibly beneficial for our health.
Main Sources of Omega-3
The main sources of Omega-3 you’ve probably heard from are fish and fish oil. They are great sources of EPA and DHA. Fish oils often consumed in supplements offer many benefits. Certain types of fish rich in Omega-3s include salmon, sardines, and some shellfish like oysters and mussels.
The Omega-3s found in fish are the longer forms (EPA and DHA), so our bodies can use them directly without any need for conversion. But where do these fish get their Omega-3s from? They generally get it from eating marine algae rich in EPA and DHA.
Algae-Based EPA and DHA
More supplements are coming onto the market that contain algae-based EPA and DHA. These are great because they’re much more sustainable than getting them directly from fish. However, it’s important to note that fish can be a good source of protein and other nutrients for people. That’s why they are in all of the dietary guidelines around the world – having a few servings of fatty fish per week is recommended.
But for those who don’t want to eat fish for ethical or environmental reasons, there are alternatives.
Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3
The best plant-based sources of Omega-3 are flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Consuming about 1 to 2 tablespoons per day will help you reach the recommended intake of Omega-3. This assumes we’re converting 5% or less of the ALA to EPA and DHA.
Adding a tablespoon or two of flax seeds to a smoothie, having a chia seed pudding, or adding some hemp seeds onto your morning breakfast or salad are easy ways to incorporate these into your diet.
The Benefits of an Omega-3 Rich Diet
All these foods containing ALA have many other beneficial nutrients that are great for our health. So whether or not you’re eating fish, they’re all great to include in your diet.
If you have the budget for it and want to optimize your omega-3 intake, an algae-based supplement of EPA and DHA might be beneficial. Consider this as a little bit of an insurance policy, making sure that we are getting enough of these essential fats.
I hope this article has inspired you to include more sources of Omega-3 in your diet now that you know about their incredible importance. If you have any questions or need further clarification around anything, please leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Remember, maintaining a balanced diet is key to living a long, healthy life. Stay tuned for more evidence-based nutrition content and stay healthy!