The Power of Omega-3 Foods – Benefits Your Body Needs Now

powerOmega3S

What are omega-3's you ask? What benefits could you receive if you were to eat more oily fish (or even take a supplement)?  Do you really need omega-3's in your diet? Might you actually be deficient in these essential fatty acids? 

 Omega-3's are “essential” fatty acids in which your body cannot produce on it’s own. That’s why we must rely on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to deliver these extremely beneficial compounds. 

 Omega-3's are made up of three different types: DHA, EPA and ALA. DHA and EPA are the best known for their amazing health benefits like supporting eye, heart, and brain tissue. DHA and EPA are found in seafood like anchovies, sardines, and wild caught salmon. In comparison ALA is found in foods like walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and grass-fed beef.

What’s the Best Omega-3 Foods?

ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA, meaning it comes before and contains some EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, our bodies convert less than 1 percent of the EPA and DHA from ALA. That’s why getting DHA and EPA directly from food sources is the most efficient. That’s why nutrition and health experts recommend eating wild-caught fish several times per week, because certain kinds of seafood contain naturally high levels of DHA and EPA. 

 EPA and DHA are the best omega-3 sources, but all types are beneficial to your health, so eat plenty of seeds and nuts and of course oily fish like anchovies or wild caught salmon. Harvard Medical School considers omega-3 fatty acids crucial in the diet and even stated the following, “...men whose diets are rich in EPA and DHA (mainly from fish and seafood) are less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those with low intake of EPA and DHA.”. (1) 

 Throughout history we’ve recorded certain populations that consume foods high in omega-3's, live longer and healthier lives than populations who eat a standard diet low in omega-3 fatty acids. For instance, people in Okinawa, Japan are known as “the Longest-Lived People on the Planet” with an average age of 81.2 years old. They eat lots of sea vegetables and fish in their diet, which is a big reason why they are considered to be one of the healthiest populations in current history. (2) 

The Mediterranean region is also considered to be a population who consume healthy amounts of omega-3 rich foods. The Greek, Spanish, Italian, French and Turkish populations all consume what’s known as the “Mediterranean Diet”. This diet includes lots of wild caught fish and seafood. People in the Mediterranean area suffer much lower cases of heart disease on average than Americans. 

Omega-3-Cheat-Sheet

Does the Source of Omega-3's Matter?

Today there’s so many choices. Lots of foods brag about their rich omega-3 content, however it’s important to understand that omega-3's are now being artificially added to all kinds of processed foods like, cereal, protein powders, peanut butter and baby formula’s. These artificial sources are not the same as whole food sources.  

Many other foods like, eggs, yogurt, bread, fruit juices and milk are now being fortified with omega-3's. The EPA and DHA found in these fortified foods usually come from micro algae, which has an extremely fishy smell and taste. To eliminate the smell and taste these foods must undergo chemical purifying preparations to mask the scent and taste. (4) This process most likely changes or reduces the omega-3 fatty acid content inside the foods, making them lower in quality to whole food sources.

Omega-3 Deficiency

Omega-3’s are needed to support neurological function, mood, hormone production and cell maintenance. Foods high in omega-3 are believed to assist in the reduction of risk for heart disease due to their anti-inflammation properties.  Omega-3's are known as “healthy fats”, the ones that provide polyunsaturated fatty acids or (PUFAS).Unfortunately, most people are low in omega-3's and may want to increase their intake. Omega-6's on the other hand are different fatty acids from foods like canola oil, safflower and sunflower oil, which most consume.

Studies have proven that a lower ratio of omega-6's to omega-3's is ideal to lower the risk of chronic diseases that plague the Western populations. The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health concluded that the lower the omega-6/omega-3 ratio was in women, the lower their risk of developing breast cancer.  It was also discovered that a ratio 2:1 subdues inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, a ratio of 5:1 omega-6/omega-3 can have a useful effect on patients suffering with asthma. (5)

Many are suffering from an omega-3 deficiency today because they do not include enough omega-3 rich foods into their diet. These foods include, fish, grass-fed beef, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds or sea vegetables.

Here’s some risks associated with consuming too much omega-6's and not enough omega-3's.

  • Cognitive decline
  • Inflammation
  • Increased risk for heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Joint pain
  • Allergies
  • Depression

What are the Benefits in Consuming Natural Omega-3 Rich Foods? 

They are several studies that show that omega-3's can help protect the following: (6)

  • Lowering the chance of stroke, blood pressure, cholesterol and plaque buildup in the arteries 
  • Produce better mood and prevent depression 
  • Reducing bone and joint pain by lowering inflammation 
  • Balance blood sugar levels 
  • Improve cognitive thinking  
  • Help with learning and concentration 
  • Supercharges immunity 
  • Reduces the risk of cancer 
  • Supports healthy skin and nails

At the moment, there isn’t a standard daily recommendation for omega-3's, but many experts have suggested a range of 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day. As an example, one can of tuna fish can contain over 500 milligrams of omega-3's per can.

Omega-3's

What Foods Contain the Highest Sources of Omega-3's?

The Top 13 Omega-3 Foods List (Based on 4,000 milligrams per day of total omega-3's): (7)

  • Flaxseeds   
  • Chia Seeds 
  • Black and Red Cavier 
  • Atlantic Mackerel 
  • Sprouted Radish Seeds 
  • Wild Caught Coho Alaskan Salmon 
  • Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon  
  • Walnuts 
  • Sardines 
  • Anchovies 
  • Natto 
  • Albacore Tuna 
  • Herring

Are there any foods you should stay away from? Yes, not all foods advertised as high in omega-3's are recommended. For instance, conventional farm-raised fish, pasteurized dairy products, meats (non-organic or not grass-fed), and krill oil supplements which can be contaminated as krill are bottom-feeding shellfish.  

Wild caught fish is definitely the best source of high-quality omega-3's and nutrients. The problem with farmed-fish is that it usually contains lots of antibiotics, and pesticides. Also, there’s data to suggested that farmed fish have more omega-6 and less omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fish Oil Comparison

With so many pollutants like mercury, pesticides, sewage, oil and plastics in our oceans, streams and rivers, many find it hard to get enough clean sources of omega-3's from eating seafood alone. That’s why so many prefer to supplement with a high-quality fish oil in addition to eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 

 There’s a big difference between “cod oil” and “fish oil”. Both are two completely different oils because they come from two very different sources. Fish oil comes from salmon, tuna, herring or mackerel. Cod liver oil is extracted from the liver of cod fish. 

So, what makes them different nutritionally? Cod liver oil is lower in omega-3's and very high in vitamins D and A. Fish oil is a superior source of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, but does not have very much vitamin A or D. 

It’s been stated that cod liver oil contains only about 10% DHA and 8% EPA., which is a lot less than fish oil. Fish oil can contain about 12% DHA and 18% EPA. 

What’s the most efficient and best source of fish oil to supplement into your diet? I believe that the best source comes from small cold-water fish like anchovies and sardines. Why you may ask? Because fish accumulate toxins inside their body and organs from the environment just like we do. The bigger the fish the more surface area it has to store toxins inside it’s body. As we discussed earlier, the pollutants in our waters are at an all-time high, so using small cold-water fish as an omega-3 source is the best choice. In addition, the best form of omega-3 fish oil contains tocopherols. Tocopherols are antioxidants used to eliminate oxidation to preserve the nutritional integrity and shelf life of the fish oil.

Are There Any Side Effects from Taking Omega-3's?

Omega-3's have been studied extensively and are considered very safe and effective, but some people do experience mild side effects, like the following:

  • “Fish burps” or a strong fishy taste in your mouth after taking fish oil (this shouldn’t happen if you use a high-quality omega-3 supplement) 
  • Allergic reactions  
  • Changes in blood sugar levels 
  • Stomach discomfort and nausea

Most will not experience any side effects from taking omega-3 foods and supplements daily, but always talk to your health care provider when taking higher doses than the recommended amount. One thing is for sure, if you’re allergic to most fish, you shouldn’t take omega-3 supplements because you may risk a serious reaction. 

In my opinion, there are certain types of fish you should never eat because of potential toxic contamination. Stay vigilant and be aware of what type you’re eating, especially fish like king or Spanish mackerel, farmed salmon, and tuna.

Closing Statements on Omega-3 Foods

Omega-3's are “essential” fatty acids in which your body cannot produce on it’s own. That’s why we must rely on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to deliver these extremely beneficial compounds. 

Experts agree eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and in most cases supplementing with fish oil is the best choice. By consuming a combination of both, you can make sure you get the minimum recommended amount of 1,000 milligrams a day of EPA/DHA and approximately 4,000 milligrams of total omega-3's.

The Top 13 Omega-3 Foods List (Based on 4,000 milligrams per day of total omega-3's): (7)

  • Flaxseeds   
  • Chia Seeds 
  • Black and Red Cavier 
  • Atlantic Mackerel 
  • Sprouted Radish Seeds 
  • Wild Caught Coho Alaskan Salmon 
  • Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon  
  • Walnuts 
  • Sardines 
  • Anchovies 
  • Natto 
  • Albacore Tuna 
  • Herring

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