Omega-3 is one of the most beneficial types of dietary supplements available today. It’s a polyunsaturated fat that can be found in several sources, including plants, fish, and even algae. In this blog post, we’ll uncover the astonishing differences between omega-3 from these various sources. We’ll explore the health benefits of omega-3, how to choose a quality omega-3 supplement, and how much of it you should be taking. So, let’s get started!
Omega-3 is also known as an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) because it’s critical for sustaining human health. Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in controlling blood pressure, decreasing the level of triglycerides, impeding the formation of plaque in arteries, decreasing the risk of arrhythmia, and diminishing the likelihood of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke, as well as sudden cardiac death in individuals with heart disease.
Types and Sources of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids can be acquired from certain foods, such as seafood and flaxseed, as well as dietary supplements like fish oil. The three major types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mainly found in plant oils including flaxseed, soybean, and canola. EPA and DHA are mainly sourced from cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon. Each source has its own unique characteristics and benefits, which makes it important to understand the differences between them. Let’s take a closer look at each source of omega-3 and its benefits.
Omega-3 from Plants
Omega-3 from plants is most commonly derived from flaxseed and hemp. Flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and hemp is a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids. Both are fantastic foods that offer a number of health benefits. For example, the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed can help reduce inflammation, while the omega-6 fatty acids in hemp can help improve cardiovascular health. Walnuts, soy products, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil are also reliable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These foods have a lower quantity of ALA than flax and Chia seeds, however, they can still contribute to increasing your general ALA consumption.
Omega-3 from Fish
Fish is another fantastic source of omega-3. When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish are the best source and they are helpful in promoting cardiovascular health. Some of the fish that are high in omega-3s are salmon, sardine, Atlantic mackerel, cod, herring, lake trout, and canned, light tuna.
Omega-3 from Algae
Algae contain quite a bit of omega-3 with the added benefit of being more sustainable than sourcing omega-3 from fish. What’s more, algae doesn’t contain any mercury or other contaminants that can be found in some fish. Certain types of algae, such as seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella, are incredible sources of omega-3. These species can be incorporated into human diets and include both DHA and EPA fatty acids, which make them easily digestible.
Health Benefits of Omega-3
Studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in:
- Decreasing blood pressure: A research review, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, concluded that 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day is the most advantageous amount to reduce blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements and are composed of EPA and DHA, have been demonstrated to be as effective as making lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, lessening salt intake, and reducing alcohol consumption in decreasing blood pressure, according to a meta-analysis that was recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension.
- Lowering triglyceride levels: Studies have provided compelling evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can drastically reduce triglyceride concentrations in the blood. Additionally, there appears to be a minor rise in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, although a rise in levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol was also noticed.
- Delaying the growth of plaque in the arteries: Evidence suggests that long-term use of fish oil has the ability to reduce the rigidity of arteries. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, namely DHA and EPA, are thought to make arteries more pliable by decreasing inflammation, the possibility of blood clots, and the narrowing of the vessels.
- Decreasing the risk of abnormal heart rhythm: It has been repeatedly shown that consuming marine omega-3s has an antiarrhythmic effect. Ingesting these omega-3s causes increased cell membrane fluidity, a block of L-type calcium channels, and a lower likelihood of arrhythmic occurrences during vulnerable periods.
- Decreasing the occurrence of heart attack and stroke: Studies suggest that omega-6 fatty acids may in fact decrease the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Until further research is conducted, you can help keep your heart healthy by moderating the intake of saturated fats in your diet and incorporating plant-based foods such as flaxseed or canola oil.
- Limiting the possibility of sudden cardiac death in individuals with cardiovascular disease: Studies have not only shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can reduce the danger of cardiovascular disease but also show their potential to decrease the likelihood of death caused by a heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease (CAD), sudden cardiac death, and all other forms of mortality.
Omega-3 supplements are available in a variety of forms, including capsules, softgels, and even liquid. It’s important to choose a high-quality supplement, as some supplements may contain unnecessary additives or contaminants. It’s also important to read the label to make sure you’re getting the recommended dosage of omega-3.
For the past two decades, the American Heart Association (AHA) has suggested that individuals who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease (CVD) should consume omega-3s found in fish and fish oil to reduce their risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. Those taking blood pressure medication should consult a doctor before starting on these dietary supplements. Furthermore, people with clotting disorders, bleeding disorders, or those taking clotting medication should also speak to a doctor prior to supplementing with fish oil as it could alter their blood clotting.
The recommended dosage of omega-3 varies depending on the person. Generally speaking, most people should aim for about 500mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day. For those with certain conditions, such as heart disease, the recommended dosage may be higher. In order to address particular medical issues, it is often recommended to take higher doses of alpha-linolenic acid. The RDA for men is 1.6g daily and for women 1.1g. There has not been a set amount for EPA and DHA that is officially recommended.
How to Choose Quality Omega-3
When selecting an omega-3 supplement, it is critical to make sure it is free of impurities and offers the correct types of omega-3 fatty acids and the right amounts. EPA and DHA are the primary elements of omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in fish. When looking for the best options, search for products that have omega-3s as free fatty acids, triglycerides, or phospholipids. Several trustworthy omega-3 supplement brands include Nordic Naturals, Green Pasture, Bio-Marine Plus, Omegavia, and Ovega-3.
Of these omega-3 fatty acids, DHA is the most important for the brain and nerve cell membranes. Brain EPA levels are usually 250-300 times lower than the DHA levels. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that the quality of fish oil differs significantly. Quality aspects to take into consideration include purity (chemical pollutants), freshness (stability of the oil), and potency (omega-3 content).
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is found in several sources, including plants, fish, and algae. Each source has its own unique characteristics and benefits, so it’s important to understand the differences between them. Omega-3 has many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, better mental health, and even anti-inflammatory effects. It’s important to choose a high-quality supplement and to talk to your doctor before taking any omega-3 supplements.
With the right supplement and dosage, you can enjoy all the amazing benefits that omega-3 has to offer. In case you stick to a vegan diet, just remember that plant-based sources of omega-3s are normally made up of ALA, but algae oil is a plant-based source that contains levels of DHA and EPA similar to fish oil which makes it a great option for vegans, vegetarians, and other people who opt for a plant-based diet. Algae oil provides the same advantages as fish oil, but it is considered a better choice if you do not eat fish, follow a plant-based meal plan, or do not like the taste or side effects of fish oil.