Ever heard of Omega 3 or Omega 6? Or seen those yellow gooey soft gel fish oil supplements?
Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid. This means it cannot be produced by the body, and so it must therefore be consumed in the diet. These fatty acids are involved in many important metabolic processes, and studies prove that essential fatty acid deficiency can cause increased inflammation and has been linked with vulnerable brain chemistry.
Benefits of long term adequate fatty acid intake may include:
- Improved mental health and depressive symptom alleviation
- Reduction of the inflammation causing rheumatoid arthritis
- Decreased blood clotting and atherosclerosis formation
- Decreased serum (blood) triglyceride levels
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Intake of these fatty acids is important for optimum functioning.
Dietary sources include: fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, pilchards, salmon, tuna, trout and shellfish.
Vegetarian or Vegan dietary sources include: flaxseed, linseed, soya, canola oil, chia seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and green leafy vegetables.
Some eggs are fortified with omega 3. Have a look at the packaging.
Omega 3 in food is in the form of DHA and EPA (in animal sources) and ALA (plant sources). Absorption of essential fatty acids is more efficient via animal sources however, as the form of omega 3 (as EPA and DHA) is more bioavailable (digestible and absorbable) than plant sources of omega 3 (ALA). However, humans can convert ALA from plant sources like canola or flaxseeds into DHA and EPA, with varying degrees of efficiency.
The recommendation is to aim to eat 2-3 portions of fatty fish weekly. Here are some ideas to help you increase your intake:
- Try sardines or pilchards with fresh tomato, cottage cheese, salt, and pepper on low GI toast.
- Choose an “omega 3 fish” option every Tuesday night for dinner (or Wednesday, whichever day you prefer).
- Cook salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, herring, shellfish or sardines and get creative with your recipe’s!
- Use canola oil or soybean in cooking and salad dressings.
- Incorporate sardines or tinned salmon into fishcake recipes.
- Choose omega 3 fortified products such as eggs, milk, yoghurt, bread, and pasta. – Use ground flaxseeds as a partial substitute for flour (1/4 cup flaxseeds for ¼ cup of flour) in breads, sources, muffins, cakes, and meat bastings.