Best Sources Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids? Before we delve into that, it’s important to distinguish between 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Our bodies don’t produce ALA, so it’s essential to our diet. We can convert ALA into DHA and EPA but this is limited, so they’re required as well. In brief, we need all three. ALA is found in flaxseed oil (1:3) , canola oil (2:1), soybean oil (7:1), olive oil (3-13:1), butternuts, walnuts, edamame and chia seeds. EPA/DHA are found in oily fish (herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, anchovies, trout and halibut). Surprisingly, EPA and DHA can also be found in meat and eggs but mainly when the animals were fed on grass rather than grain.

Although the previous post focussed on the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s, there are other benefits. They have been found to improve appetite, weight and quality of life in cancer patients. They stimulate blood circulation and decrease systolic blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and help with varicose veins. Lastly, they improve brain function and help with depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, like most things in life, omega-3s should be taken in moderation…an excess of 3g of DHA/EPA per day could lead to an increased risk of bleeding, stroke, decreased blood sugar tolerance in diabetics and an increase in low density lipoproteins (LDL). Another concern is the presence of heavy metals and other fat soluble pollutants in fish…healthy eating is good but not simple! Fortunately the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

The suggested intake of ALA is 1.1g/day (women) – 1.6g/day (men) and for EPA/DHA it’s 2 servings of fish per week (more for those with risk of heart disease).

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