Here’s a really simple way to learn about the sources of omega 3 fatty acids and the different types. There are four basic types believed to be important to human health. They are ALA, DHA, EPA and DPA.
ALA is alpha linolenic acid. It is found in plant sources. Flax seed for example contains ALA. There are no known benefits to increased ALA consumption, although attempting to balance the overall omega-3 to omega-6 intake is believed to be beneficial.
Some vegetable oils contain only omega-6s. Examples include sunflower and peanut oil. Other vegetable oils contain a much higher concentration of omega-6s than 3s. Corn oil is an example. It contains about 46 times more omega-6s than 3s.
Meats, soy and dairy products contain various amounts of each. Both must be present in the human diet in order for the body to produce hormones, create new cells and repair cellular damage.
But, excessive omega-6 intake leads to chronic inflammation in the body, which plays a role in cancer, heart disease and cellular aging. Some recommendations for achieving a better dietary balance include switching from corn oil to canola and choosing grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed.
Increased intake of DHA, EPA and possibly DPA may provide many health benefits. There are few dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids of those types.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is found only in some kinds of seafood and some types of marine algae. Salmon, anchovies and sardines are examples of DHA-rich foods. Lump crab and scallops contain some, but shrimp contains none.
Marine algae are used to make vegan DHA supplements. It is not something that we normally eat, but the fish do. That’s where they get their DHA.
The sources of omega 3 fatty acids known as Eicosapentaenoic acids or EPAs include some kinds of kelp or seaweed and the fatty fish mentioned above. Docosapentaenoic acid is found in only a few species of fish, such as the cold-water New Zealand hoki, and in seal oil.
DHA is needed for the brain to build new brain cells. EPA is needed for the brain to function properly. Both are important to heart health. DPA may also be important to the heart. It is believed that DPA may partially account for the good cardiovascular health of native Eskimo populations.
Other good sources of omega 3 fatty acids include walnuts, blackberries, kiwi fruit, olives and olive oil. While those only provide ALA, they are healthy food choices.
It is particularly important for pregnant women to get enough DHA, because the nutrient is necessary for normal fetal brain development. Some doctors suggest that a pregnant woman should consume two or three servings of low-mercury fish per week and take a DHA supplement every day.
Many doctors recommend a good fish oil supplement for all of their patients. It is beneficial for the joint, the heart, the brain, the skin and the digestive system.
Make no mistake about it. Finding enough dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids can be difficult. Taking a fish oil supplement is easy.
Laurel Cohen is a strong advocate of natural health in all its forms: skin care, supplementation, and farm fresh foods. She enjoys introducing people to the best natural products she can find and uses herself daily. Visit her site http://www.omega-3-for-health.com to learn about the omega 3 fish oils Laurel uses daily for optimal health.