I’m sure you’ve already heard of omega 3. These days it would be hard not to have come across it. But you’d be forgiven for being confused, because the newspapers seem to change their minds on a weekly basis as to how good it is for us.
So let’s clear up the confusion, and lay out some of the known facts about omega 3.
What Is It & Why Should I Care?
Omega 3 is one of the ‘essential fatty acids’ that our bodies need for healthy function. It assists with a variety of things from controlling our blood clotting to building cells in the brain. And since our bodies cannot make omega 3 fats, we have to get them through the food we eat.
Studies have also shown this substance is associated with many positive health benefits, including protecting us against heart disease and possibly strokes too. And newer studies are starting to show possible benefits for a whole range of afflictions – everything from cancers to bowel disease, as well as other autoimmune related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
So it’s a pretty darn important substance for a healthily functioning body.
Where Does It Come From?
Firstly omega 3 doesn’t just come from fish. That is one of the better sources, but walnuts, flax seeds, fresh basil and spinach are also good sources too.
And whilst fish are widely recognised as being a good source, not all fish are the same. So called ‘oily’ fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, trout or anchovy are known to be better sources.
It’s Never Simple
But even different types of the same fish vary dramatically in omega 3 content. For example, albacore tuna is a great source of omega 3, but yellowfin tuna is not.
This also varies by how the fish has been produced – wild caught salmon is good, but farmed salmon is not.
And it’s not even that simple either. There are also three major components of omega 3, called ELA, DHA and EPA. All of which are important (although DHA shows a lot more importance in the studies done so far).
Things are never simple, but let’s not complicate things too much and try and make life a bit easier.
Easy Rules To Apply
Experts agree that generally a Western diet does not include enough variety of foods. Which of course is the real key to getting enough of any nutritional substances that our bodies need.
If we include a wide variety of fish, nuts, seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables in our diet then we really cover all the bases. So long as we eat enough of them, and try to ensure those foods are as fresh and unprocessed as possible for the best nutritional benefits.
What If I Just Can’t Stomach Fish?
If you simply don’t like fish and know that you won’t eat it no matter how good your intentions are, then it is worth looking into taking a quality fish oil supplement.
The same applies if you just want peace of mind to know that you are getting enough DHA every day.
What About Vegetarians?
Not to get too technical, but the body can convert some EPA and ALA into DHA. The conversion process is not at all efficient though, and even varies from person to person. So even if you are eating a wide range of vegetarian sources of omega 3, some experts say this is still likely to be insufficient.
There are however vegetarian supplements now being produced based on an algae based source instead of fish.
The Bottom Line
Despite the media jumping on whatever bandwagon is interesting today, we all know the importance of a well balanced diet. We know that eating a wide variety of fresh foods has a big impact on our long term health – the doctors have been telling us so for many years now.
The omega 3 research simply backs this up even further by showing how important this substance is to our bodies, and how getting it from different sources helps to meet the overall needs of our bodies.
The saying ‘we are what we eat’ rings true once again.