Omega 3's - To Your Health
There has been a lot of health news lately regarding omega-3's, and it seems like everywhere you turn, new foods are being enhanced with this essential fatty acid, or labeled as an excellent source. What people don't know is that there are different types of omegas, and eating too much of one kind can actually be harmful to your body.
Omega-3s are so important to heart health and to our general holistic wellness that most longstanding recommendations have been to consume two to three servings of fish per week or to take a fish oil supplement if you don't eat fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two fish meals a week. I personally eat fish often and also take 2-3 grams of supplemental fish oil a day.
Cod liver oil, and fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines, herring and salmon all containomega-3's. Fish are the best sources because they are high in two particular fatty acids that are crucial to good health, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
However, fish is not the only source of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, flaxseed, leafy vegetables, hemp seed and some animal fat, especially from grass fed animals, provide alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts to the omega-3 fatty acids it needs. The only problem with plant and animal sources of these nutrients is that some people may not be able to convert alpha-linolenic acid to the longer-chain forms, EPA and DHA that occur in fish (which are the ones the body needs).
Then there are omega-6s These fats are found in eggs, nuts, chicken, red meat and vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oil. Omega-6s are high in LA (linoleic acid), which is converted by the body into GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), and then further broken down to AA (arachidonic acid).
The proper intake ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 2:1 to 1:1. The typical western diet runs around 15:1 to 17:1. This high ingestion of omega-6 tends to promote the pathogenesis of many diseases including cardiovascular, cancer, inflammatory, macular degeneration (age-related blindness), arthritis and autoimmune disease whereas a more balanced ingestion with higher omega-3 exerts a suppression effect.
A 3-ounce serving of Alaskan salmon or herring contains about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while 3 ounces of sardines has about 1.3 grams. Wild Alaskan salmon (which may have more omega-3s than farmed salmon) is the first choice because it's both tasty and relatively free of the environmental toxins that contaminate many species of fish. If fresh salmon is not feasible for you, then canned salmon is an acceptable choice.
However, it's difficult for vegans (vegetarians who eat no foods derived from animals, including eggs and milk) to get adequate omega-3 fatty acids from their diets, since the two essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are most available in fish oil. You can substitute one ounce of walnuts for a serving of fish, or add a tablespoon or two of freshly ground flaxseed, or hemp oil to your diet. Anyone who doesn't eat oily fish at least twice a week should take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. The best available of these is fish oil at a dose of 2 to 3 grams per day. Fish oil provides both of the omega-3s: EPA and DHA our bodies need but vegans and others whose diets don't include fish could substitute Neuromins DHA, a product which is extracted from carefully grown microalgae. Taking 400 to 600 mg a day of Neuromins DHA and relying on dietary sources of ALA is probably the best vegan strategy for getting omega-3s. A daily handful of walnuts or one to two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed per day provide ALA. I hope we will soon see products made from algae that provide both EPA and DHA.
Most of us take our health for granted, assuming what we eat will provide us with all our needed nutrients. Maybe if we take a more proactive role in our health and wellness, we will require less reactive care from our doctors.