Omega-3 is an important fatty acid source. It benefits the function of your brain cells, helps to fight inflammation, and aids in calming your mood. Unlike omega-6, omega-3 is deficient in most foods commonly eaten, which has to do with the fact that many diets consists primarily of processed foods. Also, it is the omega-6 fats that are associated with diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
It is also important to be aware that there are three different types of omega-3 fats: ALA, DHA, EPA. ALA, a-linolenic acid, is primarily obtained from plants, while DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, and EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid , are primary obtained from fish. However, the DAH and EPA found in fish originate from algae eaten by the fish, so you can also state that DHA and EPA are plant-based as well.
Unfortunately, USDA guidelines recommend eating at most 3 serving of fish a week. For small children and nursing and expecting mothers, the amount is even less. These restriction placed on the amount that you can eat has to do with the mercury content and other contaminants found in them. Regrettably, pollution of our streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans prevents us from the everyday enjoyment of eating fish.
Sources of Omega-3
ALA sources are readily available and are not as deficient in typical diets as the other types of omega-3 fats. Some sources of this fat are green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and flax seed oil. More importantly, these foods can be eaten everyday.
DHA and EPA sources come from fish. Even though fish is readily available, as stated above, guidelines recommend that you limit your intake per week, so you should not eat fish everyday. To get around this, you need to include supplements in your diet.
Your primary source for supplementing DHA and EPA will come from fish oil, which can be found packaged in either a bottle or in pill form. Certain foods also come enriched with these fatty acids.
How much Omega-3?
To truly benefit from omega-3 fats, you need to not only consume more of the fats, but you also need to cut back on omega-6 fats. This is because the enzymes needed to process the fats in your body are in limited supply. So if you eat more omega-6 fats, they will take precedence over the omega-3 fats.
As a reminder, it is the omega-6 that led to many of the health problems that omega-3 fats help to prevent.
To have a positive impact on your health, recommendations of omega-6 to omega-3 ratios range from 4:1 to as low as 1:1. These ratio have been associated with lowering the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. They also help in promoting healing of wounds, and the prevention of insulin resistance.
So, in the future, instead of being concerned with getting too much fat, change your focus to getting the right type of fat. And be sure to make certain that much of that fat comes from omega-3.