On this blog post, I will explain about omega 3, focused on the different types and when it might help to boost the amount of omega 3 in your diet.
Omega 3 – What is it?
Omega-3s are ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS that the body must get from food.
Foods high in Omega-3 include are mainly sourced from the sea like fish, seafood and certain types of algae.
Another source includes vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds and leafy vegetables.
There is also a certain amount of omega 3 in eggs if they were fed on a diet containing omega 3 sources, for example, flaxseeds.
All these sources are focused on 3 different types of omega 3, I will mention them very soon, but first, let’s understand what omega 3 does in the body?
In our the body
- Omega-3s are an integral part of cell membranes and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes (signalling, cell membrane fluidity and structural maintenance).
- Omega-3s regulate the nervous system, blood pressure, hematic clotting, glucose tolerance, and inflammatory processes.
- Omega-3s are also used by the body to maintain the health of the eyes, immune function and brain.
Chemically speaking Omega−3 fatty acids, (ω−3 fatty acids/ n−3 fatty acids) are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Characterised by the presence of a double bond 3 atoms away from the terminal methyl group in their chemical structure.
Several different omega-3s exist, but the majority of scientific research focuses on three: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA contains 18 carbon atoms, whereas EPA and DHA are considered “long-chain” omega-3s because EPA contains 20 carbons and DHA contains 22.
Plant sources of omega−3 fatty acids that provide ALA include walnut, edible seeds, clary sage seed oil, algal oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil.
Animal sources of omega−3 fatty acids that provide EPA and DHA include fish, fish oils, eggs from chickens fed EPA and DHA.
Algae oils are a vegetarian source of DHA; some also contain EPA.
In the body, we are unable to synthesise the essential omega−3 fatty acid and must obtain it through diet.
The body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, but only in very small amounts
The ability to make the longer-chain omega−3 fatty acids from ALA may be impaired in ageing.
Selected Food Sources of ALA, EPA, and DHA (source)
|Food||Grams per serving|
|Flaxseed oil, 1 tbsp||7.26|
|Chia seeds, 1 ounce||5.06|
|English walnuts, 1 ounce||2.57|
|Flaxseed, whole, 1 tbsp||2.35|
|Salmon, Atlantic, farmed cooked, 3 ounces||1.24||0.59|
|Salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, 3 ounces||1.22||0.35|
|Herring, Atlantic, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.94||0.77|
|Canola oil, 1 tbsp||1.28|
|Sardines, canned in tomato sauce, drained, 3 ounces*||0.74||0.45|
|Mackerel, Atlantic, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.59||0.43|
|Salmon, pink, canned, drained, 3 ounces*||0.04||0.63||0.28|
|Soybean oil, 1 tbsp||0.92|
|Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces||0.44||0.40|
|Black walnuts, 1 ounce||0.76|
|Mayonnaise, 1 tbsp||0.74|
|Oysters, eastern, wild, cooked, 3 ounces||0.14||0.23||0.30|
|Sea bass, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.47||0.18|
|Edamame, frozen, prepared, ½ cup||0.28|
|Shrimp, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.12||0.12|
|Refried beans, canned, vegetarian, ½ cup||0.21|
|Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.04||0.07||0.10|
|Tuna, light, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces*||0.17||0.02|
|Tilapia, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.04||0.11|
|Scallops, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.09||0.06|
|Cod, Pacific, cooked, 3 ounces*||0.10||0.04|
|Tuna, yellowfin, cooked 3 ounces*||0.09||0.01|
|Kidney beans, canned ½ cup||0.10|
|Baked beans, canned, vegetarian, ½ cup||0.07|
|Ground beef, 85% lean, cooked, 3 ounces**||0.04|
|Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice||0.04|
|Egg, cooked, 1 egg||0.03|
|Chicken, breast, roasted, 3 ounces||0.02||0.01|
|Milk, low-fat (1%), 1 cup||0.01|
*Except as noted, the USDA database does not specify whether fish are farmed or wild caught.
**The USDA database does not specify whether beef is grass fed or grain fed.
Supplement vs eating fish
To give some perspective, 1 gram per day would correspond to eating three salmon meals per week.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
It is important to mention that although seafood contains varying levels of methyl mercury (a toxic heavy metal), omega-3 supplements are tested to check that they do not contain this contaminant because it is removed during processing and purification, always buy a supplement from a company with a good reputation.
Who can benefit from taking omega 3 supplement or increasing omega 3 in the diet?
The classical treatment of ADHD where stimulant medication is used has revealed severe side effects and intolerance.
When comparing levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 PUFAs) in ADHD patients Studies has found that ADHD patients have lower levels of ω-3 in their blood.
ω-3 PUFAs are essential nutrients and necessary for a proper brain function and development. Additionally, there are strong indications that ω-3 PUFA supplements could have beneficial effects on ADHD.
Omega-3s may enhance dopamine, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications act to increase.
There have been a number of clinical trials assessing the benefits of dietary supplementation with fish oils in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans: including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and migraine headaches.
Higher concentrations of EPA and DHA than arachidonic acid (omega 6) tip the inflammation process toward less inflammatory activity.
Anxiety & depression:
Omega-3s can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. They also have anti-inflammatory actions that may help relieve depression.
Heart and blood vessels:
Omega–3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats.
Memory and concentration:
DHA is the most important omega-3 in the brain and has consistently been shown to have a unique role in the neuronal membrane.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women:
A pure, high-quality omega–3 fish oil should be included in a woman’s supplement regimen before and during pregnancy, as well as during breastfeeding.
Both EPA and DHA are important, but DHA is particularly important throughout pregnancy and during the early stages of an infant’s life.
Adequate consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is vitally important during pregnancy as they are critical building blocks of the fetal brain and retina.
DHA is the primary structural fatty acid of the grey matter of the brain and the retina, DHA may help slow the degeneration of the retina, including macular degeneration.
It appears that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the symptoms of PMS including depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration and may also reduce the bloating, headache and breast tenderness.
These effects increased by longer duration of treatment.
Animal studies have shown that a higher dietary omega–3/omega-6 fatty acids ratio is associated with beneficial effects on bone health.
How much should I eat?
Everyone should try to eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily fish.
In certain conditions, if you may suffer from a deficiency, it is recommended to take a supplement of omega 3.
My name is Pazit, I’m a registered Naturopath N.D. , MNNA (a member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association), Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Bach Flower remedies therapist based in London.
www.pazbynature.com Health & Wellness Blog includes travel inspiration, healthy food and natural remedies.