Fish oil is all the rage these days. Ten percent of Americans are supplementing with fish oil. That makes fish oil the 3rd most used dietary supplement on the market.
Wow -- that’s a lot of people and a lot of fish.
All The Right Reasons
And folks are supplementing for all the right reasons:
- Improved brain health
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Reduced inflammation
What's is an Omega-3?
Omega-3s are 3 different types of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
There are 2 longer chain fatty acids called EPA and DHA.
And, there's 1 slightly shorter chain omega-3 called ALA (alpha linolenic acid).
Anti-inflammatory health benefits come from EPA/DHA.
When fish, cows and chickens eat algae or grass, they convert ALA to EPA/DHA. Their metabolism is primed to eat grass and algae. EPA/DHA accumulates in their oily tissues.
When we eat fish and beef, we consume the EPA/DHA from their tissues and receive all the anti-inflammatory benefits!
The third Omega-3 fatty acid, ALA is found in plants like flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
ALA is poorly converted to EPA/DHA.
Listen up, this is so, so important: there’s research showing that the conversion of ALA to EPA/DHA is really limited. Only .5%-5% of ALA is converted to EPA/DHA.
So, when flax seeds or chia seeds are touted as having a high amount of omega-3s, it's just not the same Omega-3 that we get from fish.
What’s so great about Omega-3s, anyway?
Cell health -- Fats are the building blocks for cell membranes. Saturated fats are straight chains and they provide rigidity to cell membranes. Polyunsaturated fats make membranes more fluid. We need a mix of both to allow nutrients into and out of the cell.
Heart and brain health –Omega-3s are all the rage for their anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-3s promote brain health and heart health by acting as anti-inflammatory agents.
Best Sources of Omega-3 fats
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild caught fish
What about Omega-6s?
These are the pro-inflammatory fats. We do need some Omega-6 fatty acids. If we get banged up, or get a cut, we need to be able to mount an inflammatory response. But it’s so easy to overdo Omega-6s, even if we’re eating a healthy diet. Eating too many Omega-6 fatty acids can lead to cardiovascular issues, heart disease and overall inflammation.
A large source of Omega-6 fats come from vegetable and seed oils, like corn, cottonseed, sesame, safflower, and soybean oil.
Nuts are fairly high in Omega-6 fats – most especially walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts and pecans.
In an ideal world, we would consume a 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6.
Reduce Inflammation Naturally
Loading up on Omega-3s, while reducing inflammatory foods is the best way to give inflammation the 1-2 punch!