Why would you?
Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce or even remedy many health complaints. That’s because it’s a strong anti-inflammatory . The reason that omega 3 has a beneficial effect, including in cardiovascular diseases, lies in the fact that it suppresses inflammation. Chronic inflammation is at the root of all kinds of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. The imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3 plays an important role in this.
Omega 3 is a strong anti-inflammatory and can therefore reduce and even make disappear many health complaints.
There are three shapes
One omega 3 is not the other. We see this fatty acid in three forms:
1. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
Important for normal heart function, healthy blood pressure and blood fat levels and can reduce feelings of depression (1).
2. DHA (docosohexaenoic acid)
Supports, among other things, brain function and vision, plus the above-mentioned properties of EPA.
3. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
Contributes, among other things, to the maintenance of normal cholesterol levels in the blood.
In addition, omega 3 fatty acids (mainly EPA and DHA):
• With proper development of an embryo and fetus during pregnancy
• Fighting the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome
• Reducing the symptoms of ADHD and asthma in children
• Suppressing autoimmune diseases • Strengthening
• Skin disorders
• To relieve or remedy menstrual pain •
To limit the deterioration of brain function
What’s it all about?
An impressive list, don’t you think? If you want to take advantage of this, it is useful to know which food contains omega 3.
EPA and DHA are only found in animal products, of which fatty fish (sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovy, salmon) is by far the most important source. With one exception, I’ll get to that in a moment.
ALA is largely found in plant-based foods. Anyone who does not consume animal food therefore seems to be able to easily fall back on a number of plant products to still get enough omega 3. Flaxseed, walnuts and perilla oil are the best known plant sources of ALA. But unfortunately ALA alone is not enough.
There’s a catch in the grass
Only the ALA fatty acid does not give you much in terms of the above-mentioned health benefits. The good news is that your body can convert ALA into DHA and EPA: the more valuable fatty acids. But there’s a catch here.
The bad news is that this is not done efficiently. ALA is only converted to a very small extent in the human body into EPA (8 to 20%) and even less into DHA: 0.5 to 9% (2). With age, this conversion becomes more and more problematic. And if you also eat a relatively large amount of omega-6 fatty acids (from bread, grains, snacks, processed foods and all kinds of vegetable oils), it means an even more difficult switch.
ALA can be converted in the body to the more valuable fatty acids DHA and EPA, but this is a very inefficient process.
Imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3
The latter in particular is the reality for many of us. Due to the typical Western diet, there is currently a major imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3. An ideal ratio of omega 6/omega 3 would be about 1:1 to 4:1. So a little more omega 6 than omega 3. Nowadays, however, we see ratios of about 20:1. There have even been measured ratios of 50:1!
Too much omega 6 compared to omega 3 stimulates inflammation in the body, with all its consequences. If you delete all corn oil and sunflower oil from now on, you will already have the first profit.
Omega 6 needs sufficient omega 3 for important processes in the body to run smoothly. If there is too little omega 3, chaos, read inflammation, will arise in the body.
Don’t bet on just one horse
The message for most people is therefore: eat more omega 3 and less omega 6 to get that important balance back in order.
It is therefore not wise to eat ALA as the only source of omega-3 fatty acids. Most ALA you eat is simply used as an energy source (calories) because of its inefficient conversion. In addition, the beneficial effect of the fatty acids EPA and DHA on cardiovascular disease is convincing, while this could not be established for ALA (3). Nobody knows exactly how much DHA and EPA is produced in your body from ALA, so my advice is not to bet on one horse.
Now you may be thinking: I don’t eat fish or animal products, how do I get enough DHA and EPA? Read on, I’ll come up with a solution for you!
Eat the best of both (three!) worlds
As an observant reader, you may be wondering why you should be ingesting ALA at all. It kind of looks like it acts like the fifth wheel on the car.
Are DHA and EPA alone not enough?
There is increasing scientific evidence that ALA has more functions than just ensuring a good cholesterol balance and acting as a precursor for DHA and EPA.
1. Research shows that ALA may target a different type of inflammation than the EPA and DHA fatty acids (2)
2. The total intake of ALA-rich foods, together with DHA and EPA, makes an important contribution to that nice balance between the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. ALA is in more foods than EPA and DHA, so it’s easier to get more of it, too. Just a nice bonus in addition to all the ‘violence’ of omega 6 in our daily (Western) diet.
3. Another important reason is that when the supply of EPA/DHA is insufficient, ALA helps to straighten the balance with regard to the omega-6 fatty acids. (3) We can therefore say that ALA performs better when the other fatty acids are less in focus.
4. Research shows that all different omega-3 fatty acids have a beneficial effect on the immune system . With the caveat that the fatty acids from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are biologically more powerful than ALA. (4)
So go for enough of all omega 3 fatty acids, then you are completely safe. I’ll give you a helping hand with the list below.
There is increasing scientific evidence that ALA does more than ensure a good cholesterol balance and is the precursor for DHA and EPA.
Known sources of omega 3
Let’s first zoom in on the well-known omega 3 sources:
• DHA and EPA: Oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring) contains 2.5-5 grams of omega 3 per 100 grams, of which herring takes the cake. Krill also contains EPA and DHA. Microalgae contain DHA .
• ALA: Walnuts contain 9 grams of ALA fatty acid per 100 grams. Flaxseed contains 8 grams of ALA. In linseed oil even 53 grams.
In addition to the above nutrition, there are many more (unknown, smaller) omega 3 sources. Perhaps not all equally impressive, but all the bits together provide quite a few healthy fatty acids. Therefore, put them regularly on your menu, especially if you are a vegetarian.
Unknown sources of omega 3
In addition to walnuts and linseed (oil), there are more vegetable sources of omega 3. Indicated amounts per 100 grams.
1. Algae and Algae Oil – Varying Amount
These are the only plant-based sources with significant amounts of EPA and DHA . Fatty fish owes its healthy name to these tiny plants because fish eat algae! So going back to the source is not a bad idea in this case either. Algae oil in particular is rich in these fats, so this can easily replace fish oil supplements. Algae oil often contains only DHA. However, DHA can easily be converted by the body into EPA and vice versa.
2. Perilla oil – 60 grams
Perilla oil is extracted from the brown seeds of the perilla plant. A somewhat unknown oil, but very rich in omega 3. About 60-65% of the oil consists of it. You use it as olive oil and is therefore a nice variation for, among other things, salads.
3. Green vegetables – 0.1 to 0.5 grams
Many people do not know, but we also find some omega 3 in (green) vegetables. The amount does not sound like much, but we easily eat 500 grams of vegetables in one day. However?
The richest sources of vegetables with omega-3 fatty acids are lamb’s lettuce, purslane and Brussels sprouts.
4. Hemp seed – 9 grams
5. Nuts – 0.1 to 0.5 grams In addition to walnuts, other nuts also contain a small part of omega 3 fats. Such as hazelnuts (0.1 grams) and almonds (0.5 grams)
6. Chia seed – 17 grams
7. Omega 3 Rich Eggs – 0.6 grams
A regular egg contains about 0.1 grams of omega 3 fats. Omega-3 eggs come from chickens fed flaxseed mixed with the regular feed. The eggs therefore contain about 6 times as much omega 3 as a normal egg. But of course you can also take a spoonful of linseed yourself.
8. Rapeseed oil – 10 grams
Use rapeseed oil in moderation and preferably cold-pressed. Do not heat this oil.
9. Soybeans – 0.5 grams
Choose fermented soy such as nato, miso, tempe, tamari and soy sauce.
10. Grass-fed meat – variable
Meat and milk from cows that mainly eat grass are richer in omega-3 fatty acids than meat and milk from animals that mainly eat grains. The omega 6/omega 3 ratio of grass-fed cattle is about 2:1, making it a better omega 3 source than grain-fed cattle (about 4:1). (5)
Variation, variation, variation and supplement this with a good supplement
The motto of the Energetic Women’s Academy is variation, variation, variation. Get enough of all kinds of sources of omega 3 fatty acids and supplement this with a high-quality omega 3 supplement. This can be fish oil, krill oil or algae oil. I prefer algae oil. This is the least harmful to the environment, the fish stock, the krill stock and provides the cleanest and most sustainable form of omega 3.
The orthomolecular recommendation for the amount of DHA and EPA is 500 to 1000 mg per day and 2-3 grams of ALA. DHA and EPA can be easily converted in the body, which is why an algae oil with only DHA is fine.
Written by: Eva Snijders
2. Stark AH, Crawford MA, Reifen R. Update on alpha-linolenic acid. Nutr Rev 2008;
acid.pdf 4. Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr 2002; 21(6):495-505